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The importance of self screening

From Doctor Ian O'Sullivan

In 1997 I was funded by the Cancer Research Campaign to do a PhD investigating the psychological factors associated with re-attendance for breast cancer re-screening, at the Health Behaviour Unit in UCL.

I was working with group who were all very much aware of health behaviours such as screening, eating fruit and veg, doing exercise etc. I completed my PhD in 2000 and moved on to work on a project which looked at the factors associated with the uptake of colorectal cancer screening.

To say I was aware of the benefits of early detection and screening behaviour is an understatement. I was never more glad of this knowledge when I noticed, early in 2001, that what I though was a 'cute freckle' on my neck looked like it had changed shape and colour.

Within weeks I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma - impossible I thought it’s only a cute freckle, I'm only 31 years old, I have a ten month old son, I am really health conscious, I know all about health behaviours - wrong not impossible at all very real in fact.

Luckily for me the melanoma was very thin and therefore less likely to have spread - but close enough to the limit where it wouldn't have been thin anymore. I had the mole and a large section of tissue around it removed and got the 'all clear'.

I've been followed up for the last four and a half years and I'm looking forward to being signed off early in the New Year when I hit five years. My experience is in no way as traumatic and serious as others - but I just wanted to share my experience with others and to highlight again the importance of keeping an eye on moles and self screening.

The irony of my experience is not wasted on me and while I always grateful for my funding from the CRC I am doubly, no trebly grateful for the knowledge self-awareness of screening behaviours it raised in me personally.

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Updated: 28 September 2009