How Do You Identify a Toenail Melanoma?


Quick Answer

A dark streak beneath the nail, an elevated nail bed, separation of the nail from the bed, malformation of the nail, and darkened skin adjacent to the nail are signs of toenail melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Biopsy is the only way to diagnose the condition.

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Full Answer

A brown or black streak that appears beneath the toenail is the most common sign of toenail melanoma, states the AAD. Because this is often thought to be a bruise resulting from a recent injury, patients often fail to seek medical evaluation. In addition, the streaking is more difficult to see in people with dark skin, and they are more likely to develop toenail melanoma than those with white or light-colored skin.

Diagnosis of toenail melanoma requires a biopsy, which involves locally anesthetizing the toe or the foot, puncturing or removing the nail, and removing some tissue for analysis, explains NYU Langone Medical Center. If the melanoma is localized in the nail bed, the melanoma and 5 millimeters of surrounding tissue are excised. If the melanoma is more invasive, toe amputation is often indicated.

Melanoma is curable when discovered, diagnosed and treated early, notes the AAD. Having a black or brown streak on a toenail evaluated by a doctor is the best way to catch melanoma early and treat it effectively.

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