Many of us have been warned to go to the doctor when a mole or freckle suddenly appears. But after a New York woman ignored a stripe underneath her fingernail for years, she learned that it held the same cancer risk.
“There was a brown line across my nail for, I would say, a few years,” Julie, the patient, told CBS New York in February. “It started as a light line and then it eventually started getting wider and the middle of it started to get really black.”
Dr. Dana Stern, a nail specialist, later diagnosed Julie with malignant melanoma of the nail bed.
“Just like you have moles on your skin you can have a mole on your nail matrix which is where the nail grows from,” Stern said.
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Julie ultimately needed surgery to remove the fingernail and cancerous tissue. She used to cover up her nail with a bandage, but she no longer feels the need to do so.
“Just be proud that you’re a survivor," she said.
Although Julie's cancer was caught at an early stage, Stern said that one must exercise caution when looking at something strange near the nail bed.
“People will sometimes develop an early melanoma and think it’s an injury and they don’t even really realize they’re supposed to go to their dermatologist,” she said.
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Stern added that there is no evidence linking cancer of the nail bed to cosmetic nail procedures.
Nail cancer occurs most frequently in African-Americans, according to CBS. This was the disease that took Bob Marley's life.
The thumb, index finger, and big toe are reportedly the most likely areas to develop his type of cancer. Some warning signs may include: a very dark streak or stripe, blurred borders on the darkened area, changes in a pre-existing streak or stripe, and a patient's medical history.
Although most discolored nails are not cancer, they should be checked out by a dermatologist. Similar to many cancers, early detection and treatment greatly improves one's prognosis.