A woman has had to have her ear amputated due to skin cancer, after using sunbeds since she was just 14 years old.
Anthea Smith, 43, first noticed a small, red lump on her ear in 2010 but dismissed it as a wart after her GP suggested this was the case.
The mother-of-two claims doctors were ‘reluctant’ to refer her to a dermatologist, despite the lump growing and changing into a black and brown coloured growth.
An emergency biopsy in 2015 – five years after she first noticed the ‘lump’ – revealed Anthea had stage 3C melanoma.
The 43-year-old, from Winstanley, Greater Manchester, said of her diagnosis:
I feel like the GP and the dermatologist let me down very much. At that point the lesion had been there for five years. It was a long time.
My melanoma is not atypical and it’s not textbook in any shape or form. It had just been a lesion, it was tiny – not even a mole.
Initially a lump appeared on the tip of my left ear, inside the top part where it folds over. It itched a little bit. I spoke to my doctor and my doctor said it was nothing to worry about, it was just a wart.
After first being told by her GP that the red lump was nothing to worry about, Anthea logically believed the professional advice.
That is, until her hairdresser mentioned it to her and she kept getting an itchy ear from wearing a headset at work. Because of this, Anthea claims she returned to her GP – only to be told once more it was a wart.
Because of the appearance of the ‘wart’, the mum-of-two became embarrassed and even had an asymmetrical haircut in order to cover it up.
But Anthea still thought there was nothing to worry about, saying:
I went back to my doctor and the doctor said again that it was nothing to worry about, that I was worrying about nothing.
Although it was frustrating it was also reassuring at the same time because I thought if my GP isn’t too concerned about it I shouldn’t be either.
Since her diagnosis four years ago, Anthea has had to have two long operations and 32 gruelling radiotherapy sessions in an attempt to get rid of the cancer.
The community assessment worker also had to have her ear amputated and now wears a prosthetic ear, meaning she lives with perpetual balance problems, facial numbness and tinnitus.
Anthea wants sunbeds to be banned as a result, as she blames her ‘naive’ use of them from the age of 14 for her devastating diagnosis.
You’re brought up to believe that a tan is healthy whereas it’s the total opposite to that really. It’s very upsetting seeing it on social media.
My main ambition and aim is to get sunbeds banned. It would be a celebration for me if we did get banned in the UK. There’s no reason for sunbeds.
The mum-of-two is supporting the petition by Melanoma UK calling for all sunbeds to be banned in the UK, which so far more than 1,300 people have signed.
You can check out the petition here.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).