After developing a rare type of skin cancer, a woman had to have her thumb amputated, and she says that it was caused by her biting her nails.
Courtney Whithorn, 24, says that she had caused such a major trauma to her nail after she completely bit it off four years ago, that it developed into acral lentiginous subungual melanoma.
Courtney, from Gold Coast, Australia, adds that she began biting her nail after she was bullied while at school, and she even managed to bite her nail clean off one day.
The nail eventually went black, but she was too embarrassed to show it to her family and friends. When she saw a doctor, he gave her the shocking news that she had developed cancer and would have to undergo a surgery. However, after several attempts to save it, her thumb was completely removed last week.
“When I found out that biting my nail off was the cause of cancer it shattered me.” – Courtney says.
“In my head I thought, ‘I’ve done this to myself,’ but obviously I knew I shouldn’t have that mentality. I couldn’t believe it.
When you think about it how many kids bite their nails it’s crazy it came to that.
I bit the nail off four years ago and I was obviously very self-conscious of how black it was.
My hand was just constantly in a fist because I didn’t want anyone to see it – not even my parents.
I got a bit freaked out when my skin started to go black, so I showed them for the first time this year.
I can’t even explain how self-conscious I was. I always had fake nails to hide it because it was so black. It was like paper whenever it grew back.”
She went to the doctors because her skin started turning black, but she only went for cosmetic reasons, so her GP referred her to a plastic surgeon. She saw two plastic surgeons, and both of them suggested to remove her nail bed and put a skin graft over it, so at least it would be skin color. Courtney was happy with that, but the doctors noticed that something was wrong before her first surgery, and decided to do a biopsy.
The results came back uncertain, so the doctors did more tests, and she was eventually told that it was a malignant melanoma, which is very rare to have there.
“I was obviously very shocked I couldn’t believe it at all. My mum just burst into tears.” – she adds.
She underwent tests after the nail bed was removed, and it was found that she had no more cancerous cells. However, it still wasn’t the end for Courtney: she was then told that the protocol for that type of cancer is amputation.
“The plastic surgeon texted me saying that protocol for this melanoma, because it’s so rare, is amputation.
I had a panic attack at work, I read the word ‘amputation’ and ran outside – I couldn’t breathe.
My mum had to come to my work, my boss was tying my hair up and wafting my shirt. I freaked out – we’d never even spoken about amputation.
We went and saw a melanoma specialist who also agreed that amputation was protocol because this was such a rare cancer.”
Courtney adds that there’s not enough research to say what the survival rate or the likelihood of it coming back is, because the location of the cancer is in her thumb, and it is unknown if it will still show up. If it does, they will have to keep cutting it away until they have a clear result.
Acral lentiginous melanoma is a very rare type of melanoma, according to the NHS, and it usually occurs on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They can sometimes, however, develop around a nail, or most commonly the thumbnail or big toenail.