Woman tells how ‘cool streak’ on her fingernail led to rare cancer diagnosis: ‘I just figured it was a mole’

‘No one really noticed it until one time a doctor did notice it’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 05 April 2022 15:07 BST

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A 25-year-old woman who had a “cool streak” under her nail since she was 16 has revealed that it was a rare form of cancer in a now-viral series of TikTok videos.

Maria Sylvia from Virginia thought the streak under her thumbnail was a mole. But after having it for nine years, she was diagnosed with subungual melanoma – a form of cancer under the nails.

The video in which she shared the revelation on 15 March has now amassed more than 21.5 million views.

“Me: Having this for 10 years, thinking it was a cool streak in my nail,” a video caption states. “It’s cancer.”

Following the massive attention the clip received, she went on to tell her story in a number of follow-up videos.

She noted that the streak was not as strong in a photo from December 2012, when she first noticed it, adding that she thought it got darker over a year.

“I had seen doctors. I was in and out of doctors’ [offices] all the time. I was an athlete, so I was getting physicals every year,” she said. “No one really noticed it until one time a doctor did notice it.”

“This was probably circa 2014, and they were like, ‘Oh, that’s odd, but you don’t really fit the demographics, so if it just grows any bigger go and see a doctor.’ So, of course, by then, I am pretty sure that it already grew to its fullest extent,” she added.

“I didn’t have any pain with it, so I just figured it was a mole because that’s what they told me, that it was most likely a mole in my nailbed,” she added.

Ms Sylvia said she discovered she had subungual melanoma after a friend urged her to get a biopsy.

Subungual melanoma is usually located in the thumb and big toe. Ms Sylvia was told that her subungual melanoma was in stage 0, also called situ, as it remained in the top layer of the skin.

“I was informed that this cancer can stay in situ (also known as stage 0) for 10-13 years before hitting stage 1,” she told Newsweek. “I felt relief that I got it looked at when I did, but I knew there was more to come for getting rid of this cancer.”

Her nailbed was removed on 11 March at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Before posting images of her thumb following the surgery on Twitter, she wrote: “I will be posting some photos shortly… for the love of god if you are squeamish do not look they are gross.”

While her cancer didn’t spread, she said she’s “now deemed at high risk for having skin cancer”.

“I think some people are afraid to confront the possibility of having cancer and facing their mortality,” she told Newsweek.

“The biggest thing I have urged is to put your mind at ease and follow through with seeing someone,” she added. “If this is caught early, it is very curable, and having a wonky thumb for a month or two is better than not having one at all.”

She said she was “very grateful” to the friend who urged her to get it checked out.

“The best thing from this video going viral is that hopefully others will do the same if they observe a nail streak on someone they encounter,” she said.

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