Cover up in the sun’s rays

Survivor: Dubbo's Sally Mannix, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2014, is encouraging all of us to cover up when going outside in the sun. Photo: Belinda Soole
Survivor: Dubbo's Sally Mannix, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2014, is encouraging all of us to cover up when going outside in the sun. Photo: Belinda Soole

“COVER UP.”

That is the advice Dubbo resident and melanoma survivor Sally Mannix has for everyone going outside.

Melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australian men and women, according to the Melanoma Institute Australia.

Almost 14,000 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017 and more than 1,800 Australians are expected to die from melanoma this year: that is five people each day.

Across NSW, it is estimated that approximately 5,088 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in a single year, with around 624 deaths expected.

In the Western NSW region alone, it is estimated that approximately 213 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in a single year, with around 22 deaths expects.

Ms Mannix said she’d originally always associated melanoma with moles, but discovered a lump in her left arm pit at the end of 2014 and after months of various tests and surgery it was found to be melanoma.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you… I was really shocked to get that diagnosis,” Ms Mannix said.

The lump was removed in June 2015, but her primary melanoma was never found. The surgeon then went back and took out another 26 nodes from under her armpit. Ms Mannix’s surgeon referred her to a local oncologist whose original diagnosis was Stage IV melanoma, and left her feeling like this was not a good outcome. However, after some additional tests they revaluated a more accurate diagnosis of Stage III.

Ms Mannix said she was extremely fortunate to have been referred to the Melanoma Institute Australia, who promptly began a treatment plan for her. This meant she would have to relocate to Sydney for three months for treatment and for and to watch for any side affects from the drugs.

Ms Mannix said what made it more  difficult was the added stress of finding accommodation in Sydney. But thankfully she found a place in Terry Hills where she stayed at with her mother.

“My employer also had another business in Sydney which I worked at in that time for two days a week in that office. It helped keep life a bit normal.”

After the three month treatment Ms Mannix was able to come home just before Christmas, but she still had to go back for treatment every fortnight.

Charity organisation Angel Flight helped Ms Mannix during those fortnightly treatments, where they flew her to Sydney from Dubbo, enabling her to get treatment in a day.

“There’s such generous people out there,” she said.

Ms Mannix will see her doctor at the end of the month for a second year checkup, but says she is “one of the lucky ones.”

“There’s so many great people in this world that I’m blessed to know,” she said.

She said looking back on her younger days she would wear singlets and sleeveless shirts and no hat.

“I was stupid, but again you never think it’s going to happen to you,” she said.

“The younger generation now have instilled into them the dangers of the sun at school,, but in our days there wasn’t any of that.”

Ms Mannix will return to see her doctor at the end of the month for her second year checkup, but says she is one of the lucky ones.

“I was one of the lucky ones and blessed to do the trials and be a part of this new development,” she said.

Cancer Council NSW communications and events coordinator Brianna Carracher advised people to always protect their skin when UV levels are 3 (moderate) and above.

“When UV levels are 3 and above the sun’s rays are strong enough to damage your skin. You can’t see or feel when UV levels are high,” she said.

“For an easy reminder, you can download the SunSmart App for your smartphone to have daily reminders on what time to be applying sunscreen, how much you need as well as other useful information and reminders.”

5 simple tips to protect yourself:

- Slip on clothing that covers your shoulders, arms and legs. Choose shirts with collars, high necks and sleeves and trousers or longer shorts and skirts that come below the knees.

- Slop on SPF30+ or higher broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen. Apply generously 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every 2 hours. Never rely on sunscreen alone.

- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, ears and neck. Broad-brimmed, bucket and legionnaire style hats provide good protection. Baseball caps are not recommended, as they do not protect the ears, cheeks or neck.

- Seek shade whenever you can especially when UV levels are highest between 10am and 2pm (11am and 3pm during daylight saving).

- Slide on sunglasses that meet Australian Standard AS1067 and that fit your face well.

Read more at www.cancercouncil.com.au

Ground-breaking results from two international clinical trials conducted by investigators at Melanoma Institute Australia were  presented on Monday, September 11 at one of the world’s largest medical oncology conferences, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2017 Congress in Spain.

The research has also been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

The trials, COMBI-AD and CheckMate 238, proved successful in preventing the spread of disease in Stage III melanoma patients whose tumours had been surgically removed. Until now, these patients were at a high risk (40−70 per cent) of their disease progressing to advanced and fatal melanoma.

Study author Professor Georgina Long, Conjoint Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia and Chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research at The University of Sydney said these results will change the way we treat melanoma patients as well as their quality of life.

“Until now, Stage III melanoma patients who have had their tumours surgically removed have simply had to play the waiting game, to see if their melanoma would metastasise or spread. Living with such fear severely affected them and their loved ones,” she said.

“Results from these clinical trials suggest we can stop the disease in its tracks – effectively preventing it from spreading and saving lives. Our ultimate goal of making melanoma a chronic rather than a terminal illness is now so much closer to being achieved.”

For more information on Melanoma Institute Australia please visit www.melanoma.org.au, or for Angel Flight www.angelflight.org.au