So – it looks like the Summer has finally left the building! Sad times.
I’ve always adored the sun.But the sun hasn’t always adored me.
Looking back at my teens, I can’t believe how ignorant (cue South Park Michael Jackson voice) we were regarding the sun and its power.
Like most of my generation, I used to go on holiday, rocking Factor “0” Oil and worshipping the sun from morning till night, returning a full mahogany! I never went as far as some of my mates who actually lay on tin foil for the reflection but had I continued my habits, I’d be bearing more than a passing resemblance to Something About Mary’s Magda rIght now! Shockingly, aged 15, I burnt my forehead so badly that it totally peeled, leaving a white strip on my otherwise David Dickenson appearance. Yup – not a good look, nor big OR clever! Amazingly, 15 years later a skin specialist in London could see the permanent damage that experience caused. Scary stuff.
These days – I couldn’t be more careful. I always wear a minimum of a factor 30 on holiday (tested some Clarins bits this year and LOVED them, especially the multi-tasking Radiant Oil SPF 30 Spray – a gorgeous plant-based oil protection which smells exotic and divine and can also be used in your hair ), I wear an SPF 50 on my face 365 days of the year and on one of those days I head to The Mole Clinic on London’s Argyll Street for my annual check-up.
I first looked into the service a few years ago, when another mole removal on my arm totally freaked me out and I was keen to keep on top of things. I researched an annual service in Australia called mole-screening, routinely offered there as part of their NHS, but I guess over here it’s just not seen as a priority for our over-stretched system. Here, the only NHS option is go to your GP when you spot something suspicious, but as my recent experience showed me, this system is flawed.
When it comes to mole screening, there’s always an element of leaving your pride at the door but frankly, once you’ve had 2 kids and the world and his wife examining your lady garden on a regular basis during pregnancy, stripping down to your knickers and bra is the least of your worries (even when you DO always seem to realise at the last minute that your underwear doesn’t match AND you forgot to shave! #fail)
Thankfully, it’s a clinic, not a Victoria’s Secret catwalk and the amazing nurses aren’t in the least bit interested as they set about examining EVERY single mole under a magnifying glass. And I mean EVERY one!
But here’s the weird thing.
I’d always thought I was pretty good at looking at my moles and would follow the NHS advice of heading to the GP if I was concerned about one. But what’s worrying is that every single mole I’ve ever deemed dodgy looking? 100% fine to the trained eye. So the bigger moles on my shoulders? Nope. Absolutely fine.
BUT the TINIEST mole you’ve ever seen on my tummy? The one I didn’t even know I had? Dodgey. So going to the GP when you see something suspicious wouldn’t have worked for me.
Once the Mole Clinic had detected the mole, photos were taken, NHS referrals were made and within 6 weeks I found myself heading to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital to have said mole removed, before it could grow and do some damage. It was done under local anaesthetic, I didn’t feel a thing and I was in and out in an hour. So the whole process didn’t need to be private, but I’m glad I got a private diagnosis and referral in the first place.
But the scariest thing of all? If I didn’t get my moles checked every year, I’d have NO idea that mole was a bit dubious and needed to come off. I truly hadn’t even clocked there was a mole there, it was barely visible to the naked eye. And melanoma needs to be caught EARLY. Had it been left to grow and get big enough that I’d actually notice it? Who knows what my prognosis would be now?
So do it. I can’t recommend it enough. Yes it costs. Yes I’m sure you have a million other things to be doing with your money, but I truly don’t think you can afford NOT to go. And all referrals after the screening are back to the NHS, of which I’m a huge fan. To be clear, I don’t have private healthcare and this is one area I’m forced to go it alone, but I see it as a priority.
GET CHECKED. It makes TOTAL sense.
Meanwhile, get yourself here to the British Association of Dermatologists website to check out everything you need to know about sun safety and checking your moles.