Recently, I was referred to a melanoma specialist to get something checked out. Luckily, it was a false alarm, but it made me aware of something I hadn’t realised before- melanoma can occur on the skin under the toenail.
As I researched it online, I saw that many people have simply ignored these marks on their toenail, perhaps not noticing them, or dismissing them as simply a bruise (which was my initial reaction.)
So what does a melanoma under the nail look like? What are the symptoms? What should you do if you suspect you may have one?
While it is quite a rare type of skin cancer, if it’s not found early it can lead to complications.
It usually presents as a brown band, which is most often vertical on the nail. It can be other shapes, however. Sometimes it is a dark pigmentation, which expands to the surrounding skin, or simply a nodule under the nail with or without pigmentation. Sometimes it causes nail brittleness and cracking, or bleeding.
It may look like a bruise, but if it doesn’t heal or move as the nail grows, it could be melanoma.
Unusually, this type of melanoma isn’t caused by sun exposure. It can be caused by trauma.
What should you do if you suspect you may have it?
- Take photos. Try to do so weekly, so you can keep track of its size and see whether it grows out as the nail grows.
- Go to your GP. They may initially be unsure, they may even dismiss it. Keep taking photos, and if after a couple of months it hasn’t grown with the nail, if it’s got bigger and changed in any other way, go back to your GP and show them. Make sure you get a referral.
The survival rate when caught early is very good, but the longer it’s left, the more risks involved. It’s not worth being careless when it comes to your health, especially cancer. So keep an eye on your toenails (and fingernails too!) and if you spot anything out of the ordinary, seek the opinion of an expert.
Here at the Comfoot Zone, Deborah is our expert in foot health, and she would be happy to advise you on any concerns you may have. Just drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01903 532159!