Regular check-ups are proven to be very important in finding potential health issues before they become a problem, but that doesn’t always mean doctors will be able to determine potentially dangerous diseases and prevent their further development. Such was the case with a young woman who almost lost a finger after doctors discovered that she has been living with a rare, but very serious skin cancer for years.
Recently, the 25-year-old M. Sylvia shared what she went through in a TikTok video encouraging her social media followers to check-up more frequently in an effort to prevent more serious health problems in the future. According to Sylvia’s video, she developed what she described as a “cool streak” on her thumbnail and she first noticed the streak in 2012, when she was only 16.
In the next year, the strip on the finger got darker, but Sylvia didn’t think it was anything unusual or dangerous and she even jokingly referred to it as her “racing stripe.” Until 2014, she had seen several doctors for seasonal school sports physicals, but none of them spotted the strip on her finger. An ingrown toenail forced her to visit a podiatrist in 2014 and she was then advised to visit a dermatologist for the very first time, but even the dermatologist told her there is ‘nothing to worry about given her age and ethnicity’.
Subungual melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that occurs in the skin under your nails. Subungual melanomas are rare, seen in only 0.07% to 3.5% of the people in the world who have melanoma. But these melanomas can spread to other parts of your body and cause death. While it’s considered rare, Subungual melanoma it is the most common variant of malignant melanoma among African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics, most often seen in people above the age of 60.
“The diagnosis was that it was most likely a mole in the nail bed causing the pigmentation streak as the nail grew,” Sylvia told Newsweek few days ago. “The dermatologist felt there was less than a one percent chance it could be subungual melanoma, so they didn’t feel that a biopsy was warranted. The dermatologist advised I keep an eye on it to see if any changes of size or color occurred, but for eight years nothing changed,” she said. “Over time, it just became a part of my hand and I just stopped worrying about it.”
Everything completely changed last January when a friend, who had previously seen similar photos online, urged Sylvia to get a biopsy. Sylvia listened, underwent the biopsy and it was discovered that an early-stage melanoma had been identified in her biopsy sample. Oncologist later confirmed it was subungual melanoma at stage 0, meaning the melanoma hadn’t spread across other parts of the body.
She was told that subungual melanoma can remain in stage 0 for 10-13 years, but once it gets to stage 1, it becomes very aggressive and life-threatening. She was advised to immediately remove the cancerous nail bed with surgery in order to prevent further spread and eventually having her finger amputated. Sylvia underwent the surgery early March and she was told no further treatment will be needed, at least for now.
“From what I know, my thumb should no longer have cancer, but I will have to continue seeing my oncologist and dermatologist every three months for the next two years, and then every six months for the remaining three years since I am now deemed at high risk for having skin cancer,” she said. “Overall, I am extremely lucky that this was my prognosis.”
Sylvia’s TikTok video gained a lot of attention and went viral. As of writing of this article, the video gathered more than 21 million views with more than 30,000 comments where many people said they are experiencing similar problem. Sylvia encourages everyone to visit a dermatologist and some of them even said they immediately scheduled an appointment after seeing the video.