I’m sure you have heard about melanoma and its potential deadly effects. But did you know it can first appear under the toenail or the top of the foot. If unnoticed and left untreated, it can be just as fatal as melanoma found on the face or back. Let’s discuss the basics of melanoma, and then address its presentation on the foot.
Melanoma has a nice mnemonic (ABCDE) to help remind you and I how to recognize a cancerous mole before it advances too far.
“A” stands for asymmetry.
“B” stands for borders. If the borders are blurred, or not clearly defined, be suspicious.
“C” stands color. If the color of the mole is variegated, meaning different patches or streaks of irregular colors, suspect melanoma.
“D” stands for diameter. Most melanomas are at least 6mm wide, or about the size of the eraser on a pencil.
“E” stands for both elevated and evolving. You will always be able to both see and feel a melanoma because it will be elevated above the skin. Evolving means that a cancerous mole is always changing (i.e. getting bigger, changing color, becoming easier to feel). If a mole looks the same as it did 10 years ago, it probably isn’t melanoma.
Now that we know what to look for, it is important to remember that there are different types of melanoma. There is a type that seems to present more often on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, including under the nails. How can you tell the difference between a blood blister under the nail and melanoma? A blood blister will grow out as the nail grows. If it is a melanoma, the discoloration stays in the same spot.
Your podiatrist can help you determine if a new discoloration under the toenails is something to worry about. He/she will be able to work with your primary care or dermatologist to treat the melanoma before if progresses.