3 On Your Side Investigates: Danger at your fingertips - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates: Danger at your fingertips

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

It is rare but can be deadly. 

Fingernail Melanoma is like so many other cancers that can be cured when caught early. The problem, however, is too many people are unaware, especially those who are  more likely to get it; African Americans and Hispanics.

But no one is exempt.

Peggy Waters had fingernail melanoma.

"I love the color of this thing," said Waters. "But I find I'm not wearing it very much because of this!"

Buttoning up a shirt can be a time consuming thing.

"Just the little, especially little buttons," said Waters.

It has been six years since her left thumbnail was removed.

"I really was lucky," Waters explained.

But seemingly simple tasks still serve as reminders about how useful that nail used to be.

"I had never heard of anything growing under your thumbnail, except fungus," added Waters.

Peggy first noticed something odd when that left thumbnail just cracked down the middle. Not from an injury she says, but it just happened. 

She put a band aid on it and months later, during a skin check up with a dermatologist, casually mentioned she also had this weird thing that happened to her thumb. 

She was referred to a dermatologist who specializes in nails. A biopsy revealed something serious.

"It came back as melanoma under my thumbnail," said Waters. "And the nail was removed. About a month later."

Dr. Robert Brodell is a professor and Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He says in his career he has seen about 50 cases of fingernail melanoma.

"Acral lentiginous melanoma, maybe 50 times in my career and have never seen it in a Caucasian," said Dr. Brodell.

Sun exposure is known to play a role in some skin cancers, but there is no clear connection to melanoma in nails.

"Why exactly it happens under the nails, in the palms, and soles, we don't really know," Dr. Brodell told us.

Dr. Brodell explains what we should look for.

"If you have one fingernail with a black streak especially a jet black streak, if the pigment is not only under the nail, but it goes onto the skin of the nail fold, that's called Hutchinson sign," explained Dr. Brodell. "That a bad sign. That could be melanoma."

Singer Bob Marley died in 1981 at the age of 36, after what was initially thought to be a bruise from a soccer injury. It turned out to be a cancerous melanoma under a toenail that spread to his body.

"Early detection leads to cure," said Dr. Brodell.

Dr. Brodell says it is important to remember melanomas can be very dangerous. They are 100 percent curable if caught early, and 100 percent fatal if you totally ignore them.

"It can send seeds around your body and you can imagine if it's in your brain, your liver, your lungs," added Dr. Brodell. "It can be life threatening and take someone's life."

Dr. Brodell told us there are no symptoms. He also says it is important to check not just your nails and toenails, but also the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

Any changes, itching or bleeding, you should check it out with a doctor as soon as possible.

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