Sun-dodging mother tells of her shock after the tiny speck on her nose turned out to be deadly skin cancer which has left her with a four-inch scar running down her face
- WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGES: Katy Flynn, 31, found a tiny speck on her nose
- It appeared in December 2016 but for months she thought it was just eczema
- A year later her GP dismissed it as ‘nothing to worry about’, Ms Flynn claims
- Dermatologists eventually prescribed a gel to clear abnormal cells last January
- Treatments failed to work and Ms Flynn was diagnosed with cancer this February
- Now she has been left with a four inch scar across her face, following treatment
A sun-dodging mother has told of her shock at how a tiny speck on the side of her nose turned out to be a deadly form of skin cancer.
Kate Flynn first noticed the mark in December 2016 – but only mentioned it to her GP 12 months later during an appointment for something else.
The 31-year-old online banking assistant, of Manchester, claims it was dismissed it as being ‘nothing to worry about’.
However, pictures of her face were sent to dermatologists who prescribed her a gel to clear abnormal cells in January 2018.
Ms Flynn went back to her GP after treatments failed to work. Doctors diagnosed her with basal cell carcinoma this February.
Now she has been left with a four inch scar across her face, where medics pulled down the skin from her forehead to cover the parts of her nose they had cut away.
The procedure left her with an open forehead flap for four weeks to allow the flesh to grow back.
Katy Flynn ignored the pin prick-sized speck on the side of her nose for 12 months after it appeared overnight in December 2016. Now she has been left with a four inch scar across her face, where medics pulled down the skin from her forehead to cover the parts of her nose they had cut away to remove her cancer
The mother, who is engaged to boyfriend, Chris, 33, has revealed she never told her two daughters, Miley, nine, and Abbie, five, she had cancer and even showed them pictures of patients with a forehead flap in advance so they wouldn’t be scared when she came home.
Ms Flynn said: ‘I just woke up with it one day, it was just a tiny scab the size of a pen dot so I just assumed one of the girls had caught me with their nails.
‘I was in shock when doctors told me it was skin cancer. I’ve always been a shade-seeker, I avoid the sun at all costs.
‘When I go on holiday I’m head to toe in factor 50 all the time.
‘My friends laugh at me because they’ll all be laid out in the sun and I’ll be sat in the shade with my book.
‘The only time I ever tried going on a sunbed was for a minute as a teenager and I hated it so I came straight off.
‘I never thought this would happen to me, but it has made me realise that anyone can get skin cancer – whether you’re a sun seeker or not.’
For six months after first spotting the scab in December 2016, Ms Flynn ignored it completely before spending six months using moisturisers and creams to get rid of it – thinking it was eczema or a bacterial infection.
Ms Flynn said: ‘The scab kept dropping off and growing back for about six months but because of where it was I just thought it was stopping it from healing properly.
‘It would bleed after I washed my face and dried it with a towel, but I never suspected anything.
After months of failed treatments to clear up the scab, online banking assistant Ms Flynn went back to her GP and was eventually diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, this February (pictured after surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from her nose)
The mother, who is engaged to boyfriend, Chris, 33, has revealed she never told her two daughters, Miley, nine, and Abbie, five, she had cancer and even showed them pictures of patients with a forehead flap in advance so they wouldn’t be scared when she came home
‘Up until the end of 2017 I was just using moisturisers and different creams but when that didn’t clear it up I thought it might be a touch of eczema or a bacterial infection.’
Ms Flynn mentioned it to her doctor in December 2017 when it still hadn’t shifted. In January 2018 she was referred to dermatologists when it grew to the size of a 5p.
There, medics diagnosed her with solar keratosis, pre-cancerous sun damage which if left untreated could turn into skin cancer.
Ms Flynn was prescribed a topical gel to kill any pre-cancerous cells and sent on her way – but despite using the treatment for another year, the scab got larger.
When Ms Flynn chased more answers in December 2018, dermatologists decided to take biopsies from her nose and when the results returned in February this year, her worst fears were confirmed.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a non-melanoma skin cancer, and accounts for more than 80 per cent of all cancers in the UK.
BCCs most commonly occur on places exposed to the sun such as the face. They appear like scabs which often bleed.
Ms Flynn said: ‘I’m not really worried about people staring at me in the street, but I am nervous about going back to work’ (pictured during surgery, left and right)
Medics booked Ms Flynn into the day surgery clinic at Salford Royal Hospital in September, where the doctors performed Mohs surgery.
During the procedure, which takes several hours, small pieces of skin are removed and tested under the microscope until all the cancer is taken away.
After the six hours of surgery, Ms Flynn was referred to The Christie Hospital in Manchester the same day for a facial reconstruction.
It involved taking a piece of skin from her forehead and placing it over the nose. The tissue continues to get blood supply from the forehead.
As the tissue heals on the nose, new blood vessels grow into the flap from the nose in around four weeks.
This left Ms Flynn with an open wound on her forehead for the same amount of time.
Ms Flynn said: ‘As soon as I knew it wasn’t life threatening and there was something I could do about it I felt relieved, as that was always my biggest worry.
‘I’m not ecstatic with the way it looks, but there’s no point being down about it.
‘When I had the forehead flap I didn’t really leave the house apart from to pick the kids up from school. I couldn’t face all the questions, I didn’t want to have to answer them.’
She added: ‘At home I never used the word “cancer” with the children – they had recently lost their granddad to cancer so I didn’t want them to associate what I had with someone dying.
‘I just told them that I had some skin on my face that needed to be cut away and they were going to replace it with healthier parts of my skin.
‘When I knew I was going to have the forehead flap I made sure I showed them pictures of what it would look like.
‘I was terrified of the idea that I would come home and they would be scared of me.’
Once the skin had grown enough to cover the wound, Ms Flynn returned to hospital this October so doctors could finish the reconstruction.
The flap was detached from the forehead completely, now that it can survive on the nose, and any gaps on her forehead were sewn back together.
Now she has a four-inch scar from her forehead to her nose, and while she admits she is nervous about dealing with people at work who don’t know her story, she feels lucky to be here.
Ms Flynn said: ‘I’m not really worried about people staring at me in the street, but I am nervous about going back to work.
‘A lot of my customers I deal with over video chat so they will only see a snapshot of me – my head and shoulders – and that does make me feel a bit self-conscious.
‘I do wonder if the doctors had taken biopsies in the first place rather than trying to diagnose me from pictures whether it would have gone this way.
‘But it’s happened now and I’m just lucky that it wasn’t life threatening and I’m still here for my children and husband-to-be.’
WHAT IS BASAL CELL CARCINOMA?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Non-melanoma means it does not involve skin pigment cells.
BCC often appears as scabs that bleed
BCC makes up more than 80 per cent of all forms of skin cancer in the UK, with over 100,000 new cases being diagnosed every year.
It is mainly caused by overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds.
BCC can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and ears.
The following people are most at risk:
- People with fair skin or hair
- Those who work outdoors
- People who use sunbeds
- Those with a personal history of the condition
BCC is usually painless. Early symptoms often only include a scab that bleeds occasionally and does not heal.
Some appear as flat, red, scaly marks or have a pearl-like rim. The latter can then erode into a ulcer.
Others are lumpy with shiny nodules crossed by blood vessels.
Most BCCs can be cured, however, treatment is complex if they are left for a long time.
Treatment usually involves removing the cancerous tumour and some of the surrounding skin.
Source: British Skin Foundation and NHS Choices
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