Is This A Sign of Cancer? UK Woman’s ‘Clubbed’ Fingernail Turns Out to Be a Symptom of Lung Cancer
Jean Taylor's curved nail turns out to be a symptom of lung cancer. (Photo Credits: Facebook, JeanJeannie Taylor)

Our fingernails can tell us a lot about our health. But can it tell whether we have cancer? When 53-year-old Jean Taylor wondered why her fingernail was bent in an odd way, she never imagined for a second it could be a symptom of lung cancer. The grandmother from Wigan clicked a picture of the oddly-shaped fingernail of her right hand and posted the picture online, asking people if they had seen anything like it before. After advice from people online, she finally decided to go to the doctor, which she admitted was a “tad extreme.” She didn’t want to waste anybody’s time over a bent nail. But the visit paid off.

In her post, Jean says that she was rushed for blood tests and chest x-rays. Two days later, she was asked to go for a CT scan and later a PET scan and more blood tests. She also underwent breathing tests, heart scans, MRI and a lung biopsy. After the relentless battery of tests, Jean was told that she had cancer in both her lungs.

Here’s her FB post that went viral:

What is Nail Clubbing?

Nail clubbing or digital clubbing in an important clinical sign for doctors. Although clubbed fingers sometimes don’t point towards anything, it can often predict some deadly underlying diseases like lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or underlying infectious conditions. So far, it’s a medical mystery. A 1981 study presents four reasons that could lead to digital clubbing: dilation of blood vessels, deficiency of oxygen in the tissues, neurocirculatory reflex and genetics. When the clubbing is acquired or not present from birth, studies believe that the culprit could be a neurocirculatory reflex, which causes increased blood flow to the digits.

Diseases Indicated By Clubbing

The commonest causes of clubbing are lung diseases like neoplasm, thymoma, lung abscess, cystic fibrosis and metastatic cancer. The second-most common reasons are cardiovascular diseases like cardiac tumours, congestive heart failure and bacterial endocarditis. Other causes include liver and gastrointestinal disorders; leukaemia; kidney cancer and exposure to toxins.

“I never in a million years thought it would be this,” she told Daily Mail. Jean first thought that the curved fingernails were a genetic trait which she shared with mother, who incidentally lost half-a-lung to cancer. Her daughter Stephanie did her research on bent nails and found links between the condition and cancer. That’s when her fears were sparked. Although lung cancer has very less survival rates, Jean was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer. She now vows not to cut her oddly-shaped nails since it saved her life by alerting her on time.

(References: Digital Clubbing; Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Chapter 44)