A WOMAN who went to the doctors with suspected bronchitis ended up being diagnosed with an unrelated skin cancer.

Susan Dibble is backing a campaign urging people to enjoy the sun safely this summer.  The appeal comes as melanoma skin cancer cases have hit a record high of 17,500 per year in the UK.

Susan has joined forces with Cancer Research UK and NIVEA SUN to share advice on how people can protect their skin from too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays. 

The 75-year-old said she believes her doctor saved her life when she was examining her and noticed a mark on her back that needed investigating.

It turned out to be malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. Now Susan is passionate about raising awareness.

Susan, who lives in Lymington, said: “When you’re told you have cancer you immediately worry. It could have been really bad and I feel very lucky that I didn’t die and it was caught early. I believe my doctor saved my life and I’m so thankful.

“Now I hope I can encourage people to think about their sun habits and take precautions. It’s so important because almost nine in 10 melanoma cases each year in the UK could be prevented by being safe in the sun and using a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen to avoid burning.”

Cancer Research UK and NIVEA SUN recommend the following when the sun is strong: Seek shade, cover up and apply sunscreen.

Bournemouth Echo:

After her experience, Susan sticks to these simple steps.

She had no idea that she had developed skin cancer until she visited her doctor with an unrelated cough and what she thought was a case of bronchitis.

Susan said: “My GP was using the stethoscope to listen to my chest and she noticed a tiny mark on my back and said, ‘I don’t like the look of that. I’m going to refer you to hospital to have that checked’.

“I was sent to the Royal South Hants hospital in Southampton and had the suspicious area of skin removed and sent off to be analysed.

Bournemouth Echo: Susan Dibble is raising awareness about staying safe in the sunSusan Dibble is raising awareness about staying safe in the sun (Image: Cancer Research UK)

“I went away on holiday and when I came back, they said it was definitely cancer. I had no history of cancer in my family and just hoped they’d caught it early and that I would be ok. I forced myself to have the attitude that it wasn’t going to beat me.

“I needed further surgery to remove a wider area of skin to make sure all the cancer was gone and the doctor apologised for the fact I would have a small scar. I told her I would rather have a scar than cancer.“

She added: “It’s really spurred me on to want to help others and spread the word about skin cancer prevention and early detection too.”

Beth Vincent, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, is working to debunk common myths about the sun.

She said: “Melanoma skin cancer is the UK’s fifth most common cancer, so we’re grateful to Susan for lending her voice to our campaign with NIVEA SUN.

“It’s important to remember the sun isn’t only strong abroad. Even on a cloudy day, it can be strong enough to burn between mid-March and mid-October. The sun is also strongest during the middle of the day, not necessarily when it’s hottest.”