As Australians, “melanoma” is a word we hear all too often. With our passion for the sun, we are at high risk for developing this type of cancer triggered by overexposure to UV rays. According to statistics compiled by the Cancer Council in Australia,
- Australia has the world’s highest incidence rate for melanoma
- It is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed here
- In 2014, 13,134 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed
- In 2015, there were 1520 deaths due to melanoma
A suspicious spot or mole is often a signal that melanoma is present, but skin cancer can develop stealthily, with no symptoms at all. “A professional examination is the best way to stop skin cancer before it starts,” says Dr Austin. “Particularly when the disease is developing in an unexpected place…like under your fingernails.”
7 Tips to See through Melanoma’s Disguise
The medical term for skin cancer that develops under fingernails is subungual melanoma. It is frequently painless and easy to overlook. That’s dangerous. Like other forms of cancer, it can metastasize, spread to organs and lymph nodes, and ultimately prove deadly.
If you’re not already doing so, add a nail-check to your regular skin self-assessment check-up. The most common signs to look for are:
- Brown or black streak under the nail
- Streaks that grow in size
- A bruise that was not caused by a known injury
- A bruise that doesn’t heal
- Nails that separate from the nail bed
- Dark skin surrounding the nail
- Nails that split
- Nails that grow in looking deformed
“Even people who examine themselves regularly for signs of skin cancer may overlook subungual melanoma,” says Dr Austin. “Symptoms of the disease are often mistaken for a bruise.” This fact underscores the value of consulting with professionals on a regular basis for an expert check-up.
We Know Melanoma
Vigilance is the best defence against melanoma of any kind. “Early diagnosis improves a patient’s chances of a full recovery,” explains Dr Austin. That’s why it’s essential to entrust your health to an expert who can diagnose the problem accurately, and prescribe an effective solution. “An expert can identify whether the problem is skin cancer or something that looks similar to subungual melanoma such as:
- Fungal nail infection
- Infection of the nail bed
- Overgrowth of nail tissue
- Squamous cell carcinoma
If you have a suspicious mole of any kind, our experts use a magnifying instrument and the ABCDE method to assess symptoms:
- Asymmetry in shape
- Border that is uneven
- Colour that is darker
- Evolution (change and growth)
Treatment for Skin Cancer Under Your Nails
When the presence of subungual melanoma is suspected, the first step is to take a biopsy of the nail matrix and nail bed. The biopsy will be examined to determine if the cells are cancerous. When a diagnosis of melanoma is made, additional tests may be necessary to determine if the disease has spread or whether the cells are “in situ.” In situ cells are pre-cancerous, but still benign.
Are Your Fingernails Giving You Worry Wrinkles?
Have you noticed some irregularities under your nails? Are you feeling anxious about whether or not you may have skin cancer? Contact us by phone or email and we’ll get you in to see one of our skin experts right away, so you can stop worrying and get back to enjoying life.