Melanoma shock: Australian woman’s itchy arm led to skin cancer diagnosis

Courtney Mangan never thought anything of her itchy arm until her father noticed something unusual about its complexion.

In 2017, the 34-year-old PR director had spotted a mole on her right shoulder and after it became extremely itchy, she decided to get a second opinion.

In the space of one year she had visited several GPs who all told her the same thing – that it wasn’t anything to worry about.

However, after her father, who has had several melanomas removed, noticed the mole had changed in colour, with its complexion becoming more scabby looking, he encouraged her to make an appointment with a skin specialist.

It was then that Mangan’s world turned upside after it was revealed she had a level 4 melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer which in 2019, claimed the lives of 1415 Australians.

“I was shell shocked,” Mangan told

“I went home that night and my parents came over. My mum’s brother passed away from skin cancer [10 years ago] and she was very triggered by it all, so I was trying to put on brave face for her.”

Two weeks after her diagnosis, the Gold Coast local, who is the director of Australian PR firm Spin & Co, underwent surgery to remove the mole and a lymph node.

“I had to wait a few days for the margins to come back and I was in the clear; it hadn’t spread,” Mangan said.

From then, she has had to get her skin checked every three months.

But nearly three years on, Mangan spotted something else unusual near the initial melanoma spot on her shoulder.

“In November, I had recently lost a lot of weight, about 45kg – which was nothing to do with illness – however, as I could feel my arms a bit better, I felt a lump under the skin of my right arm,” she said.

“I thought it was pimple as it was a bit sore and tender, or possibly an infection.”

As she was already booked in for her three-month skin check, her specialist took several tests and to her horror she was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma (which has since been re-diagnosed to stage 3B).

“The skin specialist had referred me to a surgeon who said based on my history, ‘I need you to prepare yourself as it is most likely not going to be a good result’,” she said, adding that the tests came back to reveal she had not one, but two lumps on her arm.

“I was diagnosed on a Friday and on Monday I went into surgery to have the lumps removed. I then had to meet with an oncologist to discuss my cancer treatment.”

Since February this year, Mangan has been undergoing immunotherapy every two weeks.

However, because her body has rejected the treatment, what would normally take about 30 minutes, takes up to four hours for the 34-year-old.

“I have to take all these antihistamines the night before and the morning of – and because of this I have to be admitted to a hospital where they knock me out, which is why it takes longer.”

Despite her family’s history of melanoma, Mangan didn’t believe she would fall victim, saying she is sun smart, applying sunscreen daily to obvious areas such as her face, wearing hats and never sunbathing.

“I have got fair skin so I burn easily which is why I am always so careful. But the lesson for me – it wasn’t the time I went to the beach, it’s all the times I drove to work where my arm and mole was exposed. It’s all that incidental sun that you don’t think about it.”

Mangan, who currently has no evidence of cancer, has made it her mission to spread awareness about the importance of regular skin checks, saying it helped save her life.

“You need to know your body and be aware of its changes. There’s also lots of apps where you can take photos of your moles.”

According to new research conducted by leading Australian life insurer, TAL, 68 per cent of Australians have not had their skin checked in the past 12 months – and 35 per cent have never had one at all.

TAL chief medical officer, Dr Priya Chagan, said the SpotChecker Australian Skin Safety Report, showed that while people have the right intentions when it comes to skin safety, not enough are taking real steps towards preventing or reducing the impact of skin cancer.

“The good news is TAL’s research reveals 57 per cent of respondents say their awareness of the importance of skin safety has increased over the past five years. Taking the time to get to know your own skin so you can notice any changes all year round is an invaluable step towards detecting and possibly preventing skin cancer or spread of skin cancer,” Dr Chagan said.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. More than 13,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma in Australia every year, the Cancer Council states.

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