Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Diagnosis

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What was the stage of your melanoma when it was diagnosed?

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How is melanoma diagnosed?

Most doctors diagnose melanoma by examining the spot causing concern and doing a biopsy. A skin biopsy refers to removing all or part of the skin spot under local anesthesia and sending the specimen to a pathologist for analysis.

The biopsy report may show any of the following:

  • A totally benign condition requiring no further treatment, such as a regular mole
  • An atypical mole which, depending on the judgment of the doctor and the pathologist, may need a conservative removal (taking off a little bit of normal skin all around just to make sure that the spot is completely out).
  • A thin melanoma requiring surgery
  • A thicker melanoma requires more extensive surgery or extra tests in which the lymph nodes are examined. Removing lymph nodes causes physical problems even when there is no tumor present and, for that reason, is not recommended for thinner melanomas.

Some doctors are skilled in a clinical technique called epiluminescence microscopy (also called dermatoscopy or dermoscopy). They may use a variety of instruments to evaluate the pigment and blood vessel pattern of a mole without having to remove it. Sometimes the findings support the diagnosis of possible melanoma, and at other times, the findings are reassuring that the spot is nothing to worry about. The gold standard for a conclusive diagnosis, however, remains a skin biopsy.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Debbie, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 03

At age 33 I had a small bleeding mole removed from under my left breast. It was melanoma, I had a wide excision and all margins came back clear. No other treatment. Twenty two years later, I now have stage 4 metastatic malignant melanoma. You are never cured of this disease. Don't let your guard down.

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Comment from: Frank, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 22

Around 1999 I developed nose bleeds. I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist and he said I had a deviated septum from a nose break and needed an operation. Until then, I should keep my nose packed with Vaseline petroleum jelly. I did this but of course it would run, I'd blow my nose and it would occur again (while working a full time job). After 15 years I decided to try Vaseline to just dissolve the blood clots (with Q-tips) but not to pack my nose with it. The Vaseline had the added benefit of stopping another nose bleed (unlike blowing you nose to clear it). After a few months, I no longer had nose bleeds. It has now been a few years without nose bleeds (and no further Vaseline use). This is anecdotal and there may be now cause and effect between how I used Vaseline and my nose bleeds stopping. But it certainly seems to be the most likely cure of a 15 year nose bleed.

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