Toenail melanomas are similarly found on the skin but they are on the skin beneath the toenail or thumbnail. This makes them less noticeable especially for people who frequently wear dark nail polish. This is also the reason why most toenail melanomas are only treated or removed only when they have reached the more advanced stages of growth.
Fortunately, toenail melanoma is commonly benign, in which case a simple surgery can be done to remove the skin tumor. Since toenail melanoma is covered by the nail, the operation would require the partial or total removal of the covering nail as well.
This is all done under local anesthesia so there is nothing to worry about. With the advances in modern medicine, this surgery will only last about an hour.
The first symptom of this kind of skin cancer is a small dark spot resembling a mole. Oftentimes, a toenail melanoma is dark yellow, brown or black.
In rare cases, the spot is colorless, making it more difficult to detect. These types are the riskier ones especially if they turn out to be malignant. They can keep growing with the person not even knowing he has it.
To differentiate between a regular mole and a toenail melanoma, you will have to observe the spot for a few days or even weeks. If the spot grows in size, there is a large chance that it is in fact a toenail melanoma.
Although most toenail melanomas are benign, this is not a certainty. You need to go in for a biopsy to determine the kind of toenail melanoma you have.
Sometimes a toenail melanoma starts not as a spot but a streak, similar to the white streaks that sometimes appear on the nail following trauma. If you notice these streaks on your nails without undergoing any kind of nail trauma, you should have your nail checked as this can be the beginning stages of a tumor.
Although this condition is generally called toenail melanoma, it can actually occur in any of your other nails as well. They do appear much more frequently on the toenails and thumbnails but you should regularly check your other nails as well.
Once you begin to notice these changes in your nails, it is best to consult a doctor right away. Melanomas are still a kind of cancer, and just like other cancers, they are more easily treated if detected early. Also, since they are just like any other tumor, you will need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation in case the toenail melanoma turns out to be malignant.
Medical studies have shown that this particular kind of melanoma, also called acral lentiginous melanoma in the medical community, is more common in Asians and other people with darker skin. However, Caucasians are not totally risk-free as there have also been several cases of toenail melanoma in very fair-skinned people over the years.