With Audrey’s turbulent live on the street having gripped viewers for numerous years, when watching the soap one evening it was a suspicious looking mole that had caught the eye of viewer and specialist skin care nurse Anna Bianconi-Moore, who was almost immediately able to diagnose the actress with malignant melanoma. Worried for the actress’ welfare, Moore got in touch with the show to warn Nicholls to get her mole checked out professionally.
What Moore noticed on Nicholls shoulder as she wore a nightie in one of the soap’s scenes, was an irregular shaped mole. In fact, it was the dappled look of the mole that caught her immediate attention.
Talking to the press after the incident she said: “I noticed it was irregular in shape and had at least three different colours.
“These are two of the red-flag signals that distinguish the most deadly form of skin cancer – malignant melanoma. I was obviously incredibly worried about Sue, and felt I needed to do something.
“I wrote that I had observed a sinister-looking lesion and suggested that Sue should see a specialist, sooner rather than later, as it may require urgent attention.”
Moore’s keen eye was helped by the fact that during the day she works as a nurse at the dermatology clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and soon Nicholls’ mole was sent for testing.
Finding out that the mole had in fact turned into melanoma, ITV released a statement about the incredible sharpness of the nurse and the effect this had on actress Nicholls.
It read: “Whilst millions watched the same scene in their living rooms at home, specialist skin care nurse Anna was able to diagnose the blemish as malignant melanoma after pausing the TV and taking a closer look.
“The 55 year old who’s from Suffolk then got in touch with the show to warn Sue to get the mole checked.
“In the end, almost a year passed before Sue had the mole removed and the diagnosis of malignant melanoma was confirmed. The actress then appealed for the viewer to get back in touch.
“The two finally met on the Coronation Street set at the end of May so Sue could thank her in person – for potentially saving her life.”
Melanoma is described by The Skin Cancer Foundation as a “dangerous” and “serious” form of skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes. The thing that makes it dangerous is its ability to spread to other organs more rapidly if it is not treated at any early stage.
In fact, only 20 to 30 percent of melanomas are found in existing moles like Nicholls’ was. 70 to 80 percent arise on normal-looking skin.
Melanomas can present in many different shapes, sizes and colors. But no matter what the appearance of the melanoma, it is always important to detect it early so treatment can begin. Once melanoma has spread deeper into the skin or other parts of the body, it becomes more difficult to treat and can be deadly.
The Skin Cancer Foundation uses both the ABCDEs of melanoma and the Ugly Duckling method in order to teach individuals how to spot melanoma.
The first is a guide to help individuals recognize the warning signs of melanoma. It goes as follows:
- A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
- B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
- C is for Colour. Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.
- D is for Diameter or Dark. While it’s ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about six millimeters or larger). Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.
- E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
The second, is another recognition strategy that is based on the concept that most normal moles look like each other, with one standing out like an ugly duckling.
This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are also considered ugly ducklings.
To diagnose melanoma, a dermatologist biopsies the suspicious tissue and sends it to a lab. From here a dermatologist determines whether cancer cells are present.
Once diagnosed, treatment options will depend on the stage of the disease, location of the tumor and overall health of the individual. Treatment methods currently used include surgical removal, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and chemotherapy.
Due to developments in research, treatment options are improving quality of life and increasing survival rates of patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma.