Cancer, especially skin cancer, is a life-changing disease that can affect us all, it does not discriminate. With the UK entering summer, many people will be taking to the streets and beaches to make the most of the sun.

According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 131,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year. This makes it the most common type of cancer by far and it tends to be under-reported.

Gabriella Saracino, 34 from New Malden, was diagnosed with stage two melanoma skin cancer last year. Her world was turned upside down and she lost a toe on her right foot in the process.

Mrs. Saracino, a teaching assistant at Surbiton Children’s nursery, said: “I noticed a black spot on my toe two years ago and for a long time I did not know what it was. The GP said it was a fungal infection, they sent me to a cryotherapy where they burned the spot over four visits.

“However, it came back and my foot got progressively worse. It got to the point where I could not walk or sleep. I had to take time off work. The GP said I would have to wait one month for an appointment at Kingston Hospital.

“I decided to go there myself and after four hours of waiting they referred me to Stanmore London North Hospital. They said they wanted to do a biopsy, I was on the waiting list for a month. On the day of the operation, they said I would have to sign a form and the part of my toe would have to be cut off.”

Mrs. Saracino described the pain she suffered after the operation. She had to use crutches and could not walk or return to work. Last May, a month after the operation, she was told it was a rare form of skin cancer.

She was sent to Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, where she is still a day patient. They had to cut more of her toe off and she because the doctors fear that it could come back at any time, she will have check-ups every three months for the next five years.

Mrs. Saracino said: “Royal Marsden and Stanmore Hospital were very helpful, but I was extremely shocked by the GP who dismissed it as an infection. I had to use my own initiative to find out what this black spot was.

Mrs. Saracino has urged people to be careful in the sun and apply sunscreen properly. She returned to work in October 2017 but will need a regular brain and body scan over the next five years to make sure cancer is completely gone.

The NHS advice the public that, while skin cancer isn’t always preventable, you can reduce your chances of developing it by avoiding overexposure to UV light, which can cause sunburn.

Using high-factor sunscreen, dressing sensibly in the sun, and limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun during the hottest part of the day can reduce chances of getting skin cancer. Sunbeds and sunlamps should also be avoided.