SALON SPOT CHECK PROVES A CUT ABOVE

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - REGINA TITELIUS Health Re­porter

WHEN Neil Gibb went for his reg­u­lar trim at Just Cuts in Bel­mont, he didn’t ex­pect he’d also get ad­vice that would save his life.

Hair­dresser Bar­bara Knowles-Tas­sell no­ticed a pe­cu­liar-look­ing mole near the top of the 66-year-old Kew­dale man’s head while cut­ting his thick hair.

Ms Knowles-Tas­sell, who hadn’t cut Mr Gibb’s hair be­fore, made the quick but cru­cial com­ment that “you should prob­a­bly get that looked at”.

Hav­ing al­ready skipped his an­nual skin check last year, Mr Gibb heeded the ad­vice.

He went to Mo­les­can in Mid­land and was told the mole — which was about the size of a 10¢ coin and looked “spi­dery” — was a ma­lig­nant melanoma.

Af­ter an emer­gency op­er­a­tion at Royal Perth Hos­pi­tal, Mr Gibb says he’s grate­ful his new bar­ber went above and be­yond, and is urg­ing other stylists to fol­low suit.

“I had been pro­cras­ti­nat­ing for more than a year to get my reg­u­lar check-up,” Mr Gibb said. “We don’t have any his­tory of skin can­cer in our fam­ily and pre­vi­ous moles I’ve had biop­sied have ended up be­ing noth­ing. So this time round I thought it would be noth­ing again. I was sur­prised when the doc­tor said it was melanoma.”

Ms Knowles-Tas­sell said even though the in­dus­try could some­times be about get­ting clients “in and out” fast, she al­ways took time to make sure she thor­oughly checked her client’s scalps.

“I’m not qual­i­fied to say, ‘Hey look you have a melanoma’, but I def­i­nitely think we have the po­si­tion to let clients know if some­thing doesn’t look quite right — but with­out alarm­ing them — which is what I did for Neil,” the 44-year-old said.

The op­er­a­tion left Mr Gibb with a bald patch about the size of a 50¢ coin, but he says he’s lucky.

“You just don’t know how quickly these things grow and de­velop,” he said. “I’m just so grate­ful to Bar­bara be­cause I wouldn’t oth­er­wise have known that I had a mole there. I couldn’t see it. Bar­bara could have gone ahead and just cut my hair and said, ‘See ya later’. But be­cause she said some­thing, she po­ten­tially saved my life.”

Mr Gibb’s ex­pe­ri­ence en­cour­aged his brother Larry, 65, of Kal­go­or­lie, to see a skin spe­cial­ist. His doc­tor has found a “sus­pi­cious mole” on the same area of his scalp as his brother.

“We look a lot alike and we joke that Larry can never let me have any­thing of my own,” Mr Gibb said.

“But skin can­cer is a se­ri­ous mat­ter and I hope he doesn’t have melanoma. But if he does, then Bar­bara has helped us both.”

Pic­ture: Justin Ben­son-Cooper

Early warn­ing: Just Cuts Bel­mont hair­dresser Bar­bara Knowles-Tas­sell and client Neil Gibb.

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