How Is Melanoma Under a Fingernail Treated?


Quick Answer

Doctors surgically remove melanoma under a fingernail, allowing for 5 millimeter margins around the cancer whenever possible, explains the NYU School of Medicine. To close the wound, the surgeon may use a skin graft. For invasive melanoma underneath the nail, amputation at the joint closest to the cancer is the a treatment option. If the surgeon amputates the thumb, reconstruction to restore part of the digit is possible.

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Full Answer

The most common fingernail to develop melanoma is the thumb, according to the NYU School of Medicine. Melanoma located under the nail is uncommon, in Caucasians it represents approximately 3 percent of all melanoma diagnoses. For darker skinned ethnic groups, the percentage increases to an estimated 15 to 35 percent.

A dark color in the nail bed can be an early sign of melanoma. To diagnose melanoma, a doctor must perform a biopsy to verify that the discoloration under the nail is not the result of a subungal hematoma, chronic bacterial infection or melanonychia striata, notes the NYC School of Medicine. If the doctor suspects a hermatoma, she may bore a hole in the top of the nail to look for blood pooling under the nail. However, if the doctor needs a biopsy, a surgeon uses a regional anesthetic and then removes the entire nail. She then takes a narrow section of the skin and tissue of the finger that reaches to the tissue surrounding the digit's bone.

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