Head and neck cancer awareness

Grandma covered face cancer with make up for months

AT FIRST Jean Dellit just dismissed her melanoma as an old-age spot.

It wasn't dark or severely discoloured like she expected a melanoma to look, it was cream - only slightly off colour.

Mrs Dellit said it was her husband who noticed it first.

"My husband saw the creamy mark on my jaw line. I told him it was nothing, just an old-age mark," she said.

"I just put more make-up on it. I had it for about three months before one day I noticed it felt funny.

"It didn't hurt, it just felt different to my other skin. That's when I thought I should get it checked.

"And luckily I did because my GP told me it was stage-four melanoma and I had to have it removed in hospital the next week."

RAISING AWARENESS: Nurse Emma Kluck (left) and cancer survivor Jean Dellit are raising awareness of World Head and Neck Cancer Day.
RAISING AWARENESS: Nurse Emma Kluck (left) and cancer survivor Jean Dellit are raising awareness of World Head and Neck Cancer Day. Kevin Farmer

She said she would never forget the days leading up to her surgery.

"I felt awful. I thought I was going to die. I'll never forget that terrible feeling," she said.

"My surgeon Dr Griggs was so beautiful. He told me if he didn't get it out the first time, he would go back a second time. That filled me with such hope.

"My GP told me if I didn't go and see him when I did I may not be here today.

"I was a fool not to get the spot checked earlier and it almost cost me my life."

Mrs Dellit is sharing her story for World Head and Neck Cancer Day today to make others aware about what to look for.

In Queensland more than 740 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year and about 250 people die from the disease.

Head and neck cancers occur inside the sinuses, nose, mouth and throat, and salivary glands.

Possible symptoms include a sore throat, voice changes or lumps in the neck area.

Symptoms can also include pain, swelling, developing a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing and bad breath.

It has also been found that Queenslanders living in metro areas are less likely to be diagnosed and die from head and neck cancer than those in disadvantaged or rural communities.

The latest data from Cancer Council Queensland's Cancer Registry found that from 2010 to 2014, incidence rates of head and neck cancer ranged from 14 cases per 100,000 in the urban south-east corner of the state, to 20 cases per 100,000 in remote areas.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said greater awareness of prevention measures across the state was critical.

"Alcohol and tobacco consumption are the biggest risk factors for head and neck cancers with up to 75% of head and neck cancers caused by a combination of smoking and alcohol.

"This should come as a warning to individuals. Significantly reducing your risk is as simple as limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking and also maintaining a healthy diet."

Mrs Dellit said it was taking too many lives.

"I don't want people to be like me and just dismiss any possible symptoms," she said.

"If you see anything abnormal please go to your GP, it could save your life."

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