A woman has been diagnosed with skin cancer after mistaking a malignant lump on her nose for a pimple.
Michelle Davis, 52, from Orewa, New Zealand, spotted the red bump on her nose in April 2022 and thought it was just a spot until it got ‘really painful’ .
But when she tried to pop it with her fingers, no pus came out but the place kept bleeding, prompting her to see a doctor.
Her doctor immediately thought it was cancer and, following a biopsy, diagnosed Ms Davis with basal cell carcinoma – a common form of skin cancer that affects four million Americans each year.
Ms Davis missed the warning sign that she had a spot or sore that wasn’t healing or going away on its own, which is a common sign of cancer according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Michelle Davis, 51, from Orewa, New Zealand, spotted the red bump on her nose in April 2022. She initially dismissed it as a blemish, but when it didn’t go away she dismissed it got checked by doctors (pictured above after the operation to remove the lump)
Ms Davis (pictured two weeks before the operation) said she would cover the pimple with concealer At one point it turned purple, but she still rejected it
Ms Davis underwent surgery to remove the cancer and had the skin of her nose stretched to cover the hole left behind.
The account manager is now recovering from the operation at home and will not need further treatment.
Ms Davis said when the pimple first appeared she thought to herself: ‘What am I doing to get a pimple at 52? and it would go quickly.
But that’s not the case, she said, adding: “It would flare up and come back down. I remember squeezing it and nothing came out.
“Then he bled and bled and bled – for about a week. I was in shock when I found out. I had never heard of basal cell carcinoma.
Michelle first spotted the “pimple” a year ago and spent a year covering it up with concealer.
She said: “It was really difficult. Like a volcano under the skin. I went for a walk with my girlfriend and it turned purple and she pointed it out.
“I said, ‘It’s just a pimple,’ I was in denial.”
But in January 2023, the spot became ‘really sore’, leading her to try and squeeze it.
She said: ‘Nothing happened. Then it bled and bled. I thought ‘this is not normal’.’
Michelle went to see her doctor the following month and was told it looked like skin cancer.
A biopsy confirmed she had basal cell carcinoma and she was rushed in for surgery to remove the cancer. There was no sign that it had spread to other parts of his body.
Michelle underwent nasal flap reconstruction at Ormiston Hospital in Auckland in April 2023 to remove the cancer and pull the skin from the nose over the hole.
She said, “They cut off my nose in a zig-zag. They dug a crater. There was a hole at the end of my nose.
“They then bring the skin back to cover it.”
Michelle was left with scars and differently shaped nostrils, but said it was healing well. She is also grateful to still have a nose.
She said, “It’s still healing. My nostrils have different shapes because they have stretched the skin.
“Scar tissue is hard. The nerves are numb.
“(But) some people end up losing their noses, so thank goodness.”
Michelle will need to come back for check-ups once a year, she said, because she is at higher risk for skin cancer having already had it once.
She had the pimple (pictured) for about a year before having it checked
She is grateful the cancer has not reached a point where she would need to have her whole nose amputated (see above after surgery)
She shared her story to raise awareness of the condition and urge others not to dismiss pimples that won’t go away.
“If I had continued to ignore it, it would have grown much bigger,” she said. “I may have gotten to the stage where they couldn’t cut it.
“Honestly, I thought it was a pimple. I thought skin cancer was a mole.
She was unsure why the cancer arose, but said she never used a skin block when she was growing up – although it is now part of her daily skincare routine.
Michelle said: “At first I thought I was 52 and single, now I’m going to have this ugly nose.
“But it has been quite empowering. It is only superficial. It’s what’s inside that counts.
About 4.3 million Americans are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year, according to the figures.
But the vast majority survive the disease, with around 2,000 cancer deaths recorded each year.
It is normally caught in the early stages before it spreads to other parts of the body, allowing doctors to remove it quickly during surgery.
The number of cases has been trending up in recent years, which doctors have linked to more sun exposure, fair skin and people living longer.
Cancer is more common in men than in women, which researchers have linked to the fact that they are more likely to work in outdoor occupations.