A California woman is speaking out after she developed a rare form of nail cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), following a manicure at a salon.
In November 2021, Grace Garcia, 50, visited a new salon when her usual place was booked.
During her manicure, the nail technician nicked the cuticle of her right ring finger.
"She cut me, and the cut wasn't just a regular cuticle cut," 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 that she couldn't recall if the technician used new tools during the service, but that the wound didn't heal after three days.
In the months following, Garcia made numerous visits to doctors — one of which resulted in a prescription for an antibiotic that didn't help — before her gynecologist referred the San Gabriel, Calif.-based woman to a dermatologist in April 2022.
Her search for answers finally ended after seeing Dr. Teo Soleymani, a dermatologist at UCLA Health, who ultimately made the skin cancer diagnosis.
Despite months of frustration, Garcia's advocacy on her own behalf resulted in her receiving a stage 1 diagnosis, which allowed 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 necessary.
Soleymani says her situation is not uncommon.
"Interestingly, almost every single skin cancer I've dealt with that involved fingers or nails … have been associated with high-risk HPV," Soleymani said. "That is alarming — and it's in younger patients."
But, he says, the HPV vaccine prevents developing this exact type of cancer.
Courtesy 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 over 200% in the past 30 years, according to skincancer.org.
Now Garcia is urging others to take charge of their own health.
"I fought all the way from day one because I knew something was wrong," she said.