Your body has subtle ways of revealing its true health status to you, but you must know what to look for.
For one woman, a dark vertical line on her thumbnail revealed a scary diagnosis, but it took a knowledgeable nail technician to convince her it was a serious cause for concern.
England-based nail tech Jean Skinner wrote in a viral Facebook post that she saw a walk-in client who asked for a dark polish to cover a stripe on her nail.
She wrote that the client had visited other salons for years, where technicians “diagnosed” her stripe, which extended from her cuticle to the tip of her nail, as a variety of things: a calcium deficiency, hereditary mark or a blood blister.
Skinner recognized the mark as a sign of melanoma.
“I did not want to frighten her but I told her she needed to see her doctor immediately,” Skinner wrote.
A couple weeks later, she received a call from the client, confirming that she had aggressive melanoma and that the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes.
Nail melanoma, formally named subungual melanoma if it’s under the nail or periungual melanoma if it’s around the nail, is a rare, but serious — and potentially fatal — condition.
In many cases, nail melanoma is most concerning because of the length of time it takes to be properly diagnosed.
A study in Dermatologic Surgery notes that the average time it takes for diagnosis of subungual melanoma is two and a half years. This lengthy range isn’t because people don’t notice the unusual stripe; they just don’t see it as important or attribute it to something less concerning.
If you notice a mark or stripe underneath your nail without attributing it to a recent finger jam, or if an existing mark isn’t growing out, consult your doctor immediately.
Your doctor will likely do a biopsy to check for melanoma, Dr. Teippora Shainhouse told Women’s Health. If the condition is caught early, a surgical removal can rid your body of any cancerous cells before they can spread.
In Skinner’s post, she also recommends checking the nail beds — fingers and toes — of elderly loved ones who may not be able to discover these markings themselves.
“Early diagnosis can make all the difference in the world!” she warned readers.