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Woman claims she got HPV-related cancer after nail salon visit

(NEW YORK) — A California woman is speaking out after a routine manicure resulted in her developing an infection that turned into a form of cancer that can be cured, especially when caught early..

Grace Garcia shared her experience on social media last month.

“It all started w/Mani/Pedi that went wrong! Nail tech cut me with unsterilized tools! 💅🏻🩸 which within 6 months turned in to CANCER!!” she captioned her TikTok post.

Garcia told Good Morning America her ordeal first started in November 2021, when she went to get a manicure ahead of Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be like any other manicure appointment she’d been getting for the last two decades but it turned out different this time.

“It seemed harmless until it wasn’t,” Garcia said.

“As the technician was cutting my cuticle, she cut me,” she recalled. “It was a deep cut and I remember being very upset about it.”

A few days afterward, Garcia said she thought the cut on her ring finger had started to heal but it still felt unusual.

“It felt as if I couldn’t bump my finger into anything,” the mom of three said. “I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t type well. It felt tender to the touch.”

For months, Garcia said she dealt with the pain and followed up with her doctor. Then, in April 2022, about five months after she first received the cut, Garcia was referred to UCLA Health dermatologist Dr. Teo Soleymani for a biopsy.

“It came back as a squamous cell carcinoma, which is a very common form of skin cancer,” Soleymani told GMA of the biopsy test result. “But interestingly … she didn’t have any of the traditional signs … hers was HPV-driven. And it’s an interesting thing to see.”

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a common virus, one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “nearly everyone” will get “at some point in their lives.” The CDC estimates over 42 million Americans currently live with some form of HPV infection and approximately 13 million will get infected with HPV each year.

Some strains of HPV can also lead to cancer, such as genital, head or neck cancers, while others can cause warts on various parts of the body. Most HPV infections will not lead to cancer.

The virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact or skin-to-mucosa contact. In very rare cases, contaminated equipment has been thought as a possible means of transmission for the virus.

“Grace had a very obvious injury that allowed a portal of entry for the higher risk strain to kind of get in there,” Soleymani said. “The reason we don’t see it in places like our hands or our face or anywhere where we have thick skin is generally, our skin has a top layer that’s pretty protective.”

HPV vaccines can prevent more than 90% of the cancers caused by HPV but Garcia had not been vaccinated prior to her diagnosis. The CDC recommends that children as young as 9 and some adults up to age 45 get the vaccine.

Soleymani said, “I think everybody should be vaccinated because it’s one of the few simple ways that we can reduce cancer.”

Today, Garcia is cancer-free after receiving treatment, including Mohs surgery, the same type of procedure first lady Jill Biden received last week to remove a cancerous lesion from near her eye.

People can also avoid infections by making sure tools used at a nail salon are cleaned and sanitized before sitting down for a manicure.

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