Recently a patient came to the office with a dark discoloration of her nail. The average patient rarely checks their feet daily with close examination, and she was no different. The patient was unaware of the time frame the discoloration had been present and was unable to assess if it had become larger or changed in color. She also denied any kind of injury to the area. The patient was not too concerned about the nail during her initial physical examination, but I was. I discussed possibilities of what the discoloration could mean and urged her to let me biopsy it to be safe. I then performed a small punch biopsy to the area. A punch biopsy is a quick and easy procedure that takes less than 10 minutes to perform.
In processing the sample, the pathologist had similar concerns that I had…possible cancer! He began to run extra tests and had other pathologists review the sample to rule out any malignancy. The results took a prolonged amount of time to come back, but luckily for my patient, they were benign.
Discoloration of the nail is something that should not be ignored. The famous reggae singer Bob Marley died from melanoma (skin cancer) that started in his big toe nail. A discoloration very similar to the one my patient presented with. It was diagnosed and eventually spread throughout his body, killing the singer. Amputation of the toe was his only option for treatment at the time, but Mr. Marley refused treatment of the cancer because of his religious beliefs.
Discoloration of the nail can be a wide variety of things, including but not limited to fungus, yeast, mold, bacteria, and cancer. It is very important to inspect your feet and nails daily and take note of anything that is not normally there. A quick biopsy performed by your local podiatrist can help you determine exactly what the cause of the discoloration is and give you peace of mind. Catching these lesions earlier could be the difference between life and death.
At Advanced Podiatry we provide attentive care to all aspects of your foot and ankle. We are trained to perform biopsies with minimal scarring and the procedure is quick and effective. If you have any concerns regarding the appearance of your nails, we urge you to call us for an appointment!