Woman discovers her ‘ugly nails’ were actually an early warning sign of cancer

'I had no idea.'
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We’re all pretty versed in weird bodily symptoms that warrant an immediate check-up – be it a sudden loss in appetite, changing mole or lump that pops up somewhere it shouldn’t. But while these might sound obvious, there are a bunch of signs of cancer that can fly under the radar, too – an unfortunate truth UK woman Jean Taylor learned firsthand.

Taking to Facebook, the 53-year-old asked for advice after noticing her fingernails had started to point downward. After several commenters suggested it could be linked to illness, she took a trip to the doctor to have it looked at more closely.

“I was rushed for blood tests and a chest x-ray,” she explained in a recent post. “2 days later I got a phone call to go for a CT scan, 2 days later a PET scan and more blood tests.” Next up, she underwent a breathing test on her lungs, a scan on her heart, an MRI and a biopsy. And after a “gruelling” two weeks, she had a diagnosis: cancer in both of her lungs.

“When your nails curve its often linked to heart and lung disease and its official term is ‘clubbing.’ I had no idea,” she wrote.

According to the Mayo Clinic, nail clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers or toes enlarge and cause the nail to bend around them as they grow. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why this happens, but one theory is that certain chronic illnesses trigger a change in the curvature of the nail bed when the blood vessels dilate.

“Any good doctor who sees someone has clubbing will know that they may have some sort of lung disease, heart disease or gastrointestinal disease,” Dr Eric Presser, a thoracic surgeon told Health. In addition, it’s often an early-tip off for other conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis, mesothelioma, Crohn’s disease and colitis.

That said, most cases of clubbing are benign, so there’s no need to freak out right away. It’s simply a matter of being in tune with your body and speaking up if you spot anything unusual.

“If you do notice this change, make sure you talk to your doctor about some of the potential possibilities that you want to rule out,” Dr Presser adds.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health.

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