A woman who lived nearly a decade with a ‘cool streak’ under her thumbnail has revealed that the brown stripe turned out to be a rare form of cancer.
Maria Sylvia, 25, from Virginia, first saw the mark when she was 16 years old and was led to believe it was a mole under her nail bed. Nine years later, she was diagnosed with subungual melanoma, a type of skin cancer that occurs under the nails.
She shared her shocking story in a now-viral TikTok that has been viewed more than 19 million times in just two weeks.
‘Me: Having this for 10 years, thinking it was a cool streak in my nail,’ she captioned a picture of her thumb in the clip. ‘It’s cancer.’
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Maria Sylvia, 25, from Virginia, revealed in an now-viral TikTok video that the ‘cool streak’ she had under her thumbnail for nearly a decade was cancer
Sylvia was diagnosed with subungual melanoma, a rare type of skin cancer that occurs under the nails
Sylvia shared a photo from December 2012, when she first noticed the streak, pointing out that it was fainter and she didn’t think much of it
Tens of thousands of viewers commented on her post, prompting her to share a series of follow-ups detailing her biopsy and diagnosis.
Sylvia shared a photo from December 2012, when she first noticed the streak, pointing out that it was fainter and she didn’t think much of it.
She believes it got darker over the course of a year, though she admitted she doesn’t really remember because it was so long ago.
‘I had seen doctors. I was in and out of doctors’ [offices] all the time. I was an athlete, so I was getting physicals every year,’ she said. ‘No one really noticed it until one time a doctor did notice it.
‘This was probably circa 2014, and they were like, “Oh, that’s odd, but you don’t really fit the demographics, so if it just grows any bigger go and see a doctor.” So, of course, by then, I am pretty sure that it already grew to its fullest extent.’
Sylvia credited a friend with pushing her to get a biopsy done, saying she found out in late January that she had subungual melanoma
Surgeons removed Sylvia’s entire nail bed and the top of her thumb down to the bone and tendon on March 11, two months after her diagnosis
Sylvia’s test results showed that the cancer did not spread, and she considers herself lucky that she got it checked out when she did
After it was confirmed that she didn’t need to have her thumb amputated or require any further treatment, she had a skin graft on March 25
Sylvia noted that she ‘didn’t really have any issue’ with the mark under her nail, which contributed to her delayed diagnosis.
‘I didn’t have any pain with it, so I just figured it was a mole because that’s what they told me, that it was most likely a mole in my nailbed,’ she said.
Sylvia credited a friend with pushing her to get a biopsy done, saying she found out in late January that she had subungual melanoma.
Only 0.07% to 3.5% of melanoma cases are subungual melanoma, according to WebMD. They are most often found in the thumb and the big toe, though they can be seen in other toes and fingers.
Subungual melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and cause death.
Sylvia shared photos of her thumb after her surgery and skin graft on Twitter
Sylvia’s skin graft was taken from her elbow during her most recent surgery
Sylvia’s arm was wrapped to ensure her thumb didn’t move while it was healing
Sylvia is still considered ‘high risk’ for skin cancer and will need checkups every three months for the next two years and then every six months for the remaining three years
The oncologist who diagnosed Sylvia’s subungual melanoma told her it was at stage 0, or in situ, meaning it had not grown deeper than the top layer of the skin.
‘I was informed that this cancer can stay in situ (also known as stage 0) for 10-13 years before hitting stage 1,’ she told Newsweek. ‘I felt relief that I got it looked at when I did, but I knew there was more to come for getting rid of this cancer.’
WHAT IS SUBUNGUAL MELANOMA?
Subungual melanoma is a rare type of skin cancer that occurs in the skin under the nails.
They are seen in only 0.07% to 3.5% melanoma cases in the world.
In 75% to 90% of reported cases, they are found in the thumb and the big toe.
However, they can be seen in other toes and fingers.
The exact cause is unknown, but this type of melanoma differs from others because it doesn’t have any connection to sun exposure.
Subungual melanomas typically look like a brown-black discoloration in the nail bed.
The discoloration can form a thin line or streak, or it can be irregularly shaped.
Subungual melanoma can be painful and can be spread to other parts of the body and cause death.
On March 11, surgeons at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, removed Sylvia’s entire nail bed and the top of her thumb down to the bone and tendon.
She shared photos of her thumb four days after the surgery on Twitter.
Sylvia’s test results showed that the cancer did not spread. She didn’t need to have her thumb amputated or require any further treatment.
However, she explained she is ‘now deemed at high risk for having skin cancer’ and will have to see her oncologist and dermatologist every three months for the next two years and then every six months for the remaining three years.
On March 25, she received a skin graft, which she also shared photos of on Twitter.
Sylvia’s viral TikTok video caused panic for some viewers who had similar marks under their nails.
While she noted that they were likely moles, she encouraged everyone to get checked out to be on the safe side.
‘I think some people are afraid to confront the possibility of having cancer and facing their mortality,’ she told Newsweek.
‘The biggest thing I have urged is to put your mind at ease and follow through with seeing someone.
‘If this is caught early, it is very curable, and having a wonky thumb for a month or two is better than not having one at all.’
She added that she is ‘very grateful’ to her friend who had urged her to get a biopsy after reading an article with pictures of subungual melanoma cases.
‘The best thing from this video going viral is that hopefully others will do the same if they observe a nail streak on someone they encounter,’ she said.