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Woman diagnosed with skin cancer after nail salon worker ‘cut me deep’

3 min read

A woman who developed deadly cancer under one of her fingernails has blamed the problem on a particularly aggressive manicurist at a nail salon.

Grace Garcia, 50, a mum-of-three from San Gabriel, near Los Angeles, US, was diagnosed with stage 1 squamous cell carcinoma — a common type of skin cancer — in April last year.

She says the cancer took hold after a nasty nick on one of the cuticles on her right hand became infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).

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Grace told Today that the wound “wasn’t just a regular cuticle cut."

She said the manicurist “cut me deep, and that was one of the first times that happened to me”.

Grace added: “I’ve been doing [my own manicures] for years and years and years. I was upset.”

She didn’t think at the time to check whether the tools used in the “fancy” nail bar had been in a sealed packet.

“She probably used the tool on a previous person. I have no idea,” she said. “It sprouted, whatever the thing was on my hand. … It popped up. It looked like a wart, and I’m like, 'What in the world is this?'”

Grace went home, and tried to treat the cut with an antibiotic cream, but it refused to heal up.

A few days later she returned to the nail salon to complain about the injury, only to be told the technician that had cut her finger had been fired “after a lot of complaints”.

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It took a few visits to the doctor before Grace’s problem was correctly diagnosed. She spoke to her GP, a dermatologist and even her gynaecologist before getting the help she needed.

Dr. Teo Soleymani, a dermatologist at UCLA Health, determined that Grave was suffering from a squamous cell carcinoma, a common skin cancer that’s less aggressive than a melanoma.

However, the fact that the cancer was triggered by HPV is unusual, he says.

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“It’s pretty rare for several reasons. Generally speaking, the strains that cause cancer from an HPV standpoint tend to be more sexually transmitted,” he said

“In Grace’s case, she had an injury, which became the portal of entry. So that thick skin that we have on our hands and feet that acts as a natural barrier against infections and things like that was no longer the case, and the virus was able to infect her skin.”

Dr. Soleymani managed to remove the fast-growing cancer using a special surgical technique that requires no additional radiotherapy.

Grace advises other people with cuts that refuse to heal that they shouldn’t let themselves be fobbed off by doctors: “I fought all the way from day one because I knew something was wrong."

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