When a woman's tiny pimple turned into a scab, she knew something wasn't right

 nzherald.co.nz  08/15/2019 23:22:25   Shireen Khalil

A woman was shocked to discover a tiny "pimple" above her lip wasn't actually the blemish she thought it was.

Tracy French, from Arcadia in Canada, never thought anything of the light pink mark, thinking it would go away, but after a few years it still remained on her lip.

She decided to visit her doctor when the spot began to turn into a red, scaly patch — who told Ms French her zit was actually cancer.

"It looked like a pimple, then it would go away, and then it would turn into a little scab and turn scaly," Ms French told KABC 7.

"It looked like the size of a quarter, it got a little white. For a little while I didn't think anything about it."

Ms French's dermatologist, Dr Shirley Chi, said it looked like a pimple at first, but eventually it turned into something a little bit harder.

Tracy French, from Arcadia in Canada, spotted a 'pimple' on her upper lip a few years ago but never thought anything of it. Photo / KABC 7
Tracy French, from Arcadia in Canada, spotted a 'pimple' on her upper lip a few years ago but never thought anything of it. Photo / KABC 7

"It had a little scale on it," Dr Chi said, revealing it was a telltale sign of skin cancer.

As a result, Dr Chi ordered a biopsy, and Ms French was soon diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma — a cancer that most often forms on the head, neck, and back of the hands.

According to the Cancer Council, squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 30 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia and appears in areas mainly exposed to the sun.

It usually begins in the upper layer of the skin and appears as a scaly, red patch or as an open sore.

Ms French had surgery to remove the affected area above her lip and has since been declared cancer-free.

But she wanted to warn others to be more vigilant about protecting their skin following her scare.

"See your dermatologist and get your whole body checked. Because things can pop up overnight," Ms French said.

Tracy had surgery to remove the affected area above her lip and has since been declared cancer-free. Photo / KABC 7
Tracy had surgery to remove the affected area above her lip and has since been declared cancer-free. Photo / KABC 7

In Australia, skin cancer (melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers) accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year, according to the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare.

About two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with almost double the incidences compared with women.

According to the Cancer Council, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australians.

In New Zealand, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. The country has the second highest of skin cancer, second only to Australia.

The total number of new melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer cases in New Zealand contributes around 80 percent of all new cancers each year.

It is important to detect skin cancer, especially melanoma, as soon as possible. Early detection generally gives the best chance of successfully treating cancer.


Many skin cancers are treated at the doctor's surgery and do not need specialist treatment. Others forms of skin cancer may require more specialised surgery.

For more information visit cancer.org.nz or call 0800 CANCER (0800 226 237).

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