BE AWARE: Ann Riley, 80 from Proserpine said it doesn't matter how 'small or silly' a spot could be, getting it checked could save your life.
BE AWARE: Ann Riley, 80 from Proserpine said it doesn't matter how 'small or silly' a spot could be, getting it checked could save your life. Georgia Simpson

Vanity saved Ann's life - and it could save yours too

VANITY is never looked at favourably, but it was vanity that ultimately saved Ann Riley's life.

What appeared to be an innocent-looking blind pimple on the Proserpine local's neck five years ago was in fact something much more sinister.

Mrs Riley was 75 when the spot first appeared, just underneath the left side of her jaw.

When she found out it was a rare type of skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma, she said she "couldn't believe it".

She had also never heard of the aggressive form of cancer.

"I had my little iPad and I managed to Google it and see what it was all about," she told the Whitsunday Coast Guardian.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation said Merkel cell carcinoma was an incredibly rare type of skin cancer that started when Merkel cells - cells found in the top layer of skin - grew out of control.

The face, neck and arms are the most common places for the cells to form but it could occur anywhere on the body.

Mrs Riley was lucky that her cancer was caught early, as it could be very hard to treat if it spread.

The 80-year-old said when it first appeared it didn't look too alarming.

"It was just tiny, like a little blind pimple - it looked like nothing," she said.

She went to the doctor to get it checked but was assured it was nothing to worry about.

The little "blind pimple" eventually grew to about the size of a pea and turned purple, and it was then

her husband said something about the unsightly spot.

"I could have purple hair and Bob wouldn't notice, so the fact that he complained it was ugly made me self-conscious and I went back and got it taken off," she said.

Mrs Riley said she was "dumbstruck" when the doctor came back with the diagnosis and within weeks she was undergoing treatment in Brisbane.

Cancer Council Queensland has previously dubbed the Sunshine State

as the "skin cancer capital

of the world".

A 2014 report stated relative to the general population, a total of 60 per cent of Queenslanders die within five years of being diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, compared to just seven per cent of melanoma patients.

It's been five years cancer-free for Mrs Riley, who feels "so lucky" that nothing has come back.

She's sharing her story because she believes not enough people know about the rare type of cancer or what to look out for.

Merkel cell carcinoma can first appear as a single pink, red or purple bump that is not usually painful.

The skin on top of the tumour can sometimes break open and bleed.

Diagnosis is usually only made after the tumour has been biopsied, such as in the case of Mrs Riley.

Mrs Riley said it scared her when she saw people out sun baking or not covering up when outdoors.

"It really frightens me, I'm frightened for them because it's dangerous to be lying out in the sun like that," she said.

"It gives me the horrors."

"No spot is too small or too silly to get checked out," she said.

"If one person reading this goes and gets checked and it saves their life, then sharing this is worth it."


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