When a nail technician pointed out what appeared to be a bruise on Karolina Jasko’s thumbnail, she didn’t think much of it. But just a week later, her nail became infected and turned red and puffy, so she went to to see a doctor. To her surprise, the doctor wasn’t worried about the infection—but he was worried about that bruise.
According to Today, Jasko was referred to a dermatologist, who told her she needed to have a biopsy that very day. The bruise, which looked like a straight, thin vertical line drawn with a pencil from the top to the bottom of her nail, turned out to be melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.
The nail infection was unrelated to the melanoma, but because it got her to the doctor, it may have saved her life.
That was in 2016. Jasko, who is now 21, had to have her thumbnail removed. Doctors used a skin graft from her groin area to cover her thumb, which no longer has a nail. During her treatment, doctors thought they might have to amputate her entire thumb. Thankfully, they were able to remove all of the cancer, so amputation wasn’t necessary.
Jasko has a history of melanoma in her family, so she’s always paid close attention to her skin. Her mother developed melanoma twice, and she always monitored Jasko’s moles for changes.
“It was overwhelming because everything happened so quick,” Jasko, who was Miss Illinois 2018 and competed in the Miss USA pageant, told Today. “It was so scary… My mom was like, ‘I can’t believe that I never even thought that it could be in your nail.'”
The takeaway from her story: Always check your fingernails when you look yourself over for other weird skin issues. If you notice a dark line on your nail, get to the doctor ASAP. The same goes for other changes, such as if your nail starts to crack, becomes discolored, appears puffy, or just looks different in any way.
Also, sunscreen. Apply it to your hands and feet, two body areas many of us tend to forget need the same protection as our arms, legs, chest, and back.
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