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Woman is diagnosed with cancer after nail salon worker spots black stripe

With over 350,000 new cases in the year 2014 and a new diagnosis occurring roughly every two minutes, it's very likely that we or someone we know will have to contend with cancer over the course of our lives.

Around one in two people survive the disease for more than a decade, and with cancer research continually progressing, that number is sure to improve over time. Although some types are particularly deadly, with pancreatic cancer having a survival rate of less than one per cent, the likelihood of coming through a cancer diagnosis is linked with early detection.

cancer research Credit: Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research

That can be achieved by noticing a strange lump in and around our bodies or by simply arranging more cancer screens, but sometimes, the symptoms of cancer can be a lot more difficult to spot.

On Facebook, a beautician shared a post about a client of hers that had come in with a rather bizarre stripe on her thumb, and how that seemingly simple skin aberration led to an astonishing cancer diagnosis.

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Lisa Harrison Williams described a walk-in visitor who wanted a colour dark enough to obscure a dark stripe on her thumb. While other places had been quick to label the strange nail anomaly as a lack of calcium, Lisa was quick to identify the stripe as a melanoma.

"She said as soon as she sat down---I need a color dark enough to cover this stripe. The nail salons 'diagnosed' her a few different ways. Some said it was a lack of calcium. Some said it was hereditary. At least one had told her it was a blood blister. This is melanoma!!! I did not want to frighten her but I told her she needed to see her doctor immediately!"

That hunch turned out to be right on the money; the client called Lisa shortly afterward that she was suffering with an aggressive form of melanoma, and Lisa said she wanted to raise awareness about the ominous black stripe running down a fingernail.

"Please pay attention to abnormalities in your nail beds!! Odd changes in your nails can very likely be nothing to worry about! But sometimes it is an indication of a very serious disease. And please keep an eye on the nail beds---toes and fingers----of your elderly loved ones and your loved ones that aren't physically able to notice changes in the nail beds! Early diagnosis can make all the difference in the world!!!"

Lisa's astute observation is consistent with of the NHS' description of a linear melanonychia. Although they're fairly common in black people over the age of 20, they can also be an indication of a subungual melanoma, a type of cancer that affects the nail bed. Typically, this black line is only present on one finger, and is known to change shape and colour over time.

linear melanonychia Credit: YouTube

If you or someone else has a similar line down your thumb, it's important to check with your doctor to rule out the possibility of a melanoma. While we're still a long way from being able to cure cancer, early detection and treatment can sometimes be the difference between life and death.