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Girl's Thumb Amputated After Nail Biting Resulted In Rare Cancer

A university student was bullied when she was in high school and it was the bane of her existence. She developed a coping mechanism: nail biting. While not ideal, the nibbling helped her deal with the stress, but it took its toll on her.

She ended up ripping her thumb nail clean off, and the constant biting resulted in a rare type of cancer. She's had to have her thumb amputated, but she is now recovering.

Courtney Whithorn, a 20-year-old from Brisbane, hid her thumb for years because she was embarrassed by the way it looked.

"I've been a nail biter my whole life but in 2014 I was in year 11 in high school and I was chronically bullied," she explains. "I didn't even know I was biting my nails sometimes, it just happened. I sort of lost the feeling because I was doing it that often."

Her excessive nail biting, until there was no nail left, resulted in a thumb that was red, bruised and unsightly. She didn't want others to see it so she kept it out of sight as much as possible.

"My hand was just constantly in a fist because I didn't want anyone to see it - not even my parents," Whithorn explains to the Daily Mail. "I got a bit freaked out when my skin started to go black so I showed them for the first time this year. I can't even explain how self-conscious I was. I always had fake nails to hide it because it was so black. It was like paper whenever it grew back."

When she finally went to a doctor, it was recommended she get further testing on her thumb. She was eventually told that her nail bed trauma developed into acral lentiginous subungual melanoma, a rare cancer.

The teen quickly underwent multiple surgeries in which doctors tried to remove the cancer, but ultimately they couldn't save her thumb. She had to have it amputated.

Whithorn says that the diagnoses 'shattered' her. "In my head I thought 'I've done this to myself' but obviously I knew I shouldn't have that mentality. I couldn't believe it," she said. "When you think about how many kids bite their nails it's crazy it came to that."

Whithorn, who is a psychology major, put her education on hiatus to focus on her health. She's finally recovering from the surgery and the brush with cancer.

"I'm still waiting for that set of results from the surgery last week and if it's clear then the surgeon watches me for the next five years, and I get regular scans and bloods," she explained.

"There's not enough research to say what the survival rate is or what the likelihood of it coming back is because we just don't know much about it. I've just cried every time it's been brought up."

While the doctor believes the nail-biting caused the cancer, his diagnosis has been a bit controversial. Other doctors insist that nail biting can't cause cancer.

"Whilst physical trauma has been associated with appearance of some skin cancers it’s highly unlikely that just biting nails would have led to this cancer," said Dr. Nis Sheth of the British Skin Foundation to the Daily Mail.

Source: Daily Mail
Photos: Courtney Whithorn Facebook

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