A California woman is speaking out after developing a rare form of nail cancer, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), after getting a manicure at a salon.
In November 2021, Grace Garcia, 50, visited a new salon when her usual spot was booked.
During her manicure, the nail technician cut the cuticle of her right ring finger.
“She cut me, and the cut wasn’t just any cuticle,” Garcia told Today.com. “She cut me deep, and that was one of the first times that happened to me. I’ve been doing (my nails) for years and years and years. I was upset.”
The mother-of-three told the outlet she couldn’t remember if the technician had used any new tools while on duty, but the wound failed to heal after three days.
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In the following months, Garcia made numerous doctor visits — one of which resulted in a prescription for an antibiotic that didn’t help — before her gynecologist referred the San Gabriel, California, woman to a dermatologist in April 2022.
Her search for answers finally ended after seeing Dr. Teo Soleymani, a dermatologist at UCLA Health, who was eventually diagnosed with skin cancer.
“She had squamous cell carcinoma,” Soleymani told Fox 11 Los Angeles. “Hers was caused by high-risk HPV.”
Despite months of frustration, Garcia’s advocacy on her behalf resulted in her receiving a stage 1 diagnosis, allowing for early intervention. Soleymani performed Mohs surgery — the same type of surgery First Lady Jill Biden recently underwent — and found clear margins around her finger, so no further treatment was needed.
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Soleymani says her situation is not uncommon.
“Interestingly, almost every skin cancer I’ve treated involving fingers or nails has been associated with high-risk HPV,” Soleymani said. “That’s alarming — and it’s in younger patients.”
But, he says, the HPV vaccine prevents the development of this exact type of cancer.
Courtesy of UCLA Health
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About 1.8 million cases of squamous cell carcinomas are diagnosed each year, and the incidence of the disease has increased more than 200% in the past 30 years, according to skincancer.org.
Now Garcia is urging others to take charge of their own health.
“I fought from day one because I knew something was wrong,” she said.