WE use our hands all day, every day, which means sometimes we get small cuts and even bruises.
But when flute player Elizabeth Misselbrook noticed a funny streak on her nail, she knew something was wrong.
The 40-year-old had previously browsed through Facebook and had seen warnings that a mark like hers could be due to skin cancer.
She immediately made an appointment and was shocked when months later she had to have her finger amputated to get rid of a rare form of cancer.
The mother first noticed the stripe in September 2019 and her GP referred her to a dermatologist.
They initially said not to worry and to come back in three months to have it checked.
But the line began to change and grow – forcing medics to remove the nail and perform a biopsy.
Elizabeth said: “I was concerned because I have a doctor friend and she posted something on Facebook about a line on your nail being a sign of something.
“I wasn’t overly concerned, but enough to make a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t wait. It wasn’t itchy, just a faint light brown line.
“It takes time because it’s not a quick ‘pull that off and look at it’ and the nails get weird spots, but it’s changed and I had a feeling.”
In December 2020 the nail had grown back but it was still not right.
“I noticed a different line so I went back to the GP and kept an eye on it again. It’s changed a lot,” Elizabeth said.
“The dermatologist said it was suspicious and needed to be biopsied again. It was much wider and darker and I was concerned.
“It had pigment that had gone to the skin at the base of the nail, so I was a lot more concerned because it had more sinister properties.
“So in May 2021 they said it was a stage 1A melanoma, which means it’s invasive but not very large.”
Elizabeth has been diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer known as acral tiginous subungual melanoma.
She now urges others to pay attention to the signs as she awaits a prosthetic finger so she can play the flute again.
Elizabeth, from Bracknell, Berkshire, said: “As I had two melanomas that had been completely removed, they wanted to make sure it didn’t come back, so they amputated it before the first joint.
What is melanoma skin cancer?
Melanocytes are cells in the skin that give us the color of our skin because they produce a pigment known as melanin.
When you sit in the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment (a tan) that spreads to other skin cells to protect them from the sun’s rays.
But melanocytes are also the starting point for cancer.
Too much UV radiation causes sunburn, and this is a sign of damage to the skin’s DNA.
The UV triggers changes in the melanocytes, causing the genome to become defective and causing abnormal cell growth.
People who burn easily have a higher risk of skin cancer because their cells don’t produce as much pigment to protect their skin.
People with albinism are most at risk because their skin doesn’t produce any pigment at all.
Cancer Research UK says: “People with darker skin can still get melanoma but they have better natural protection against it.
“It’s rare for black people to get melanoma in the UK. When Africans or Asians get melanoma, it is most often a type of melanoma that develops on the soles of the feet or palms (acral lentiginous melanoma). This type of melanoma can also grow under the nail.”
What Are the Signs of Melanoma in Your Nail?
- a dark stripe
- dark skin next to your nail
- Nail lifting from your fingers or toes
- nail splitting
- bump or lump on your nail
“I was upset when they said they had to amputate but I was really worried I had two melanomas so I wanted them to make sure it didn’t come back.
“I came to terms with it. At no time had I felt unwell and was not on medication, so I was grateful. I didn’t want to get sick.
“I was afraid of the long-term consequences, such as handwriting and playing the flute. I wanted to play the flute, but I want to live more.”
Now cancer-free, Elizabeth said it took her some time to come to terms with her diagnosis: “When they told me it was melanoma I wasn’t surprised but it was a shock.
“It was on my left hand and I’m left-handed and play the flute.
“All the way I never felt like I was going to die because the surgeon was very reassuring me it was cancer, but it was very treatable because it was diagnosed early.
“I was trying to stay calm and I was like, ‘It is what it is, I have to deal with it and it’s not nice.’
“A lot of people fight a lot more than me and they find it really hard.
“Check your nails for anything suspicious that isn’t growing out; a bruise will grow out.”
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https://www.thesun.ie/health/8706440/funny-streak-nail-truth-much-worse/ I just thought I had a weird streak on my nail