Mum-of-two diagnosed with cancer aged 26 after noticing ‘itchy’ freckle on girls holiday


A mum who noticed an ‘itchy’ freckle whilst on a girls holiday in Benidorm was given a devastating cancer diagnosis when she finally got it checked a year later. Shannon Masterton was diagnosed with melanoma – a form of skin cancer – in January 2020 aged 26.

She has now issued a warning about the dangers of sunbeds after she admitted tanning herself twice a week in the run up to summer. The mum-of-two from Northern Ireland started using sunbeds in her early twenties so that she could have a nice tan before her holidays.

But after using them before a trip to Benidorm she noticed a slight change on her skin. Shannon, now 29, said: “It was more like a freckle than a mole and when I was on holiday it started to feel itchy. But I didn’t think too much of it.

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“I never thought it would lead to me being diagnosed with skin cancer. You just never think it will happen to you.”

The retail assistant said her friend, who is a nurse, told her to get it checked out but Shannon admits she put it off and didn’t get round to it. By the following year, Shannon started using sunbeds again before her next holiday.

Shannon’s leg following a procedure to remove the cancerous tissue

Shannon started noticing the same itchy feeling she’d had the previous year, but this time, it eventually turned into a burning sensation. She said that the fear of finding out what she might be told by the doctors was putting her off going to get it checked out.

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Shannon added: “After a while, the area of ​​my leg where I felt the burning sensation started to go numb. At our annual Christmas girls night out in 2019, my friend realized I still hadn’t been to get it check out and forced me to go on the following Monday morning.

“She is truly the reason that my kids still have a healthy mum here today. The doctor took some pictures and sent them to the dermatologist. Within a matter of days I received a call to go in so they could take a look.

“At the appointment I had three moles removed and biopsied and the following week I got called in urgently to receive my results. I knew something must have been seriously wrong and my heart sank.

“I went to the appointment with my mum and the doctor diagnosed me with melanoma. My life flashed before my eyes.” Shannon instantly thought the worst and imagined her kids growing up without her there.

She was asked if she had been using sunbeds because the doctor said that they were almost 100 per cent sure that the cancer was due to sun exposure.

Shannon with her children Maebh and Dana

Shannon said: “I didn’t think anything of my sunbed use. I thought because I only went on twice a week and didn’t use them all year round it would be fine. I never imagined in a million years that this would be happening to me. I have never felt fear like I felt when I was told that I had skin cancer.”

The mum underwent a procedure where doctors removed the cancerous tissue and surrounding tissue. They also had to remove some of her nerves from her because of how deep the cancer was. Shannon is now completely numb on that part of her leg.

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“I was awake the whole procedure. I could smell, see and hear everything,” she recalled. I’m so lucky that I caught it early enough and went to the doctors when my friend forced me too. It could have been a very different story.

“I am so much more cautious now. I am always covered up and so are my kids. It’s just not worth the risk. I’m in the all clear at the minute and I am grateful to the NHS for the regular check-ups I still have to this day. I’m also grateful to my friend, Aine, and everything she did for me. Life could have been very different if I didn’t have an earth angel as a friend.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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