In November 2021, Grace Garcia visits a new nail salon for a manicure. The nail technician cut into her skin, and she bled a little. The wound never healed properly, and she then developed a wart. I learned that she has nail cancer happened because human papillomavirus (HPV)a rare phenomenon.
“Maybe you used the tool on an ex. I have no idea,” Garcia, 50, of San Gabriel, Calif., told TODAY.com. “It sprouted, whatever thing was in my hand… It popped out. It looked like a wart, and I’m like, ‘What in the world is that?'”
Manicure leads to a problem that lasts for months
Before Thanksgiving 2021, Garcia visits a nail salon for a manicure. She’s been doing her manicures for about 20 years and couldn’t get an appointment at her usual place. So, she made one appointment at a spa near her place of work, which she chose because it looked “fancy,” she recalled. During the manicure, a manicurist caressed Garcia’s cuticles on her right ring finger.
“It cut me, and the wound wasn’t just an ordinary skin wound. It cut me deeply, and that was one of the first times that ever happened to me,” García explains. “I’ve been doing[my nails]for years and years and years. I was heartbroken.” Garcia can’t remember if she’s ever seen a nail technician open unused tools, and it still haunts her.
“I don’t remember that at all,” she says. “It’s always a big scene when they take out the tools, open the package, I don’t remember that – and I have to.”
When she got home, she applied antibiotic ointment to her wound. A few days later, the situation was no better, and she returned to the salon to alert them of their employee’s mistake.
“I was upset and I went back, and I told them the lady hurt me, and my finger still bothered me,” says García. They said: Oh, we separated it (after) a lot of complaints. That was it.”
Concerned that the wound had not healed properly, she visited her doctor, who prescribed an antibiotic for her finger.
“It never got better, but it wasn’t bad. It was weird,” she said.
Her finger felt tender. If you accidentally hit it with something, it hurts. Eventually she healed, but a bump that was darker in color than the rest of her skin appeared instead.
Garcia visited her doctor, and he asked about her again. They thought it was a “nail from typing,” but she didn’t use her ring finger while writing, she recalls. Her doctor recommended that he be monitored.
When she saw her gynecologist in April 2022 — five months after her nail appointment — she pointed the finger at the doctor, who suggested Garcia see a dermatologist.
The dermatologist also advised to keep an eye on it. The bump transformed from looking like a bruise into more of an open wound, and eventually a wart. Then Garcia went back to her primary care doctor and saw another dermatologist. I had a biopsy.
“I knew it wasn’t good,” she says.
Human papilloma virus causes nail cancer
Still, nail cancers are uncommon, and most are melanomas, says Dr. Teo Solimani, a dermatologist at UCLA Health who treated Garcia. In Garcia’s case, she had squamous cell carcinoma, a common skin cancer that’s less aggressive than melanoma. But the cause of her disease, human papillomavirus, is unusual.
“It’s very rare for a number of reasons. In general, the strains that cause cancer from an HPV standpoint tend to be sexually transmitted,” Solomon tells TODAY.com. “In Grace’s case, she got infected, which became the entry gate. So the thick skin that we have on our hands and feet that acts as a natural barrier against infection and things like that was no longer, and the virus was able to infect her skin.”
Garcia’s cancer progressed rapidly.
“It was interesting because her timeline was about three months, which is much lower than squamous cell carcinoma,” Soleimani explains. “It is also fitting that she has a high-risk strain of HPV which shows promise although this is not just a benign cut.”
Thanks to her determination, she met Soleimani early and was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer.
“Your outcome is completely determined by when you catch it early, and it’s often completely curable,” says Soleimani. “Her persistence, not only was she able to obtain a remarkable result, she might even have saved herself from having her finger amputated.”
Soleimani introduced Mohs surgery On it, a procedure that allows doctors to see “100% of the edge” of the cancer. This means that doctors can remove all types of cancer, providing a “high cure rate” without removing a lot of skin.
“Because we’re able to verify 100 percent of the fringes with Mohs micrographic technology, they don’t need radiation,” Soleimani says. “She doesn’t need any additional treatment.”
The most common type of nail cancer dermatologists see is melanoma, which usually appears as a black or dark brown line at the bottom of the nail. If people have squamous cell carcinoma of the nail, they look like a oozing mass.
“Anytime you have a growth that doesn’t go away in about four weeks, that’s kind of our signal,” Soleimani says. “You should see your dermatologist.”
He recommends that everyone receive the HPV vaccine to prevent the development of HPV-related cancers.
“The vaccine has been shown in a lot of studies emerging in the last couple of years to not only reduce the incidence of common things, like warts and obvious cervical cancer, for which it was shown, but also reduce the risk of developing and developing skin cancer associated with HPV,” he says. Says.
life after cancer
As Garcia’s stud looks back on normal, she is still shocked.
“We think of a manicure as something special,” she says. “And it happens.”
Garcia has to follow up with her dermatologist for regular checkups for skin cancer. She feels it’s important to talk about her experience to raise awareness and encourage people who do manicures and pedicures to make sure they see nail technicians use the new tools. She also urges people to persevere if they feel that something is wrong with their health.
“I fought all the way from day one because I knew something was wrong,” says García.
This article was originally published TODAY.com