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

Published: July 08

In six weeks, I noticed a mole below my left rib cage increase in size, then grow outward, and eventually bleed. By the time I got a referral to a dermatologist to remove it, it was third-stage melanoma. After surgery (6 inch incision) of the mole area and two lymph node removals, I may have a 50% chance to survive five more years. Never take a chance, get checked out!

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Comment from: Alexandra, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 30

I had a bright blue and red spot on my left arm near the elbow. I thought it was a bruise because I do a lot of gardening, but it didn't go away after a few months so I had it checked. As soon as the doctor looked at it, she knew it was melanoma. I was shocked because all of the photos I'd ever seen were brown or black; no one ever told me it could be bright red and blue. Luckily they got it out quickly. It took two surgeries, but it was only stage 1. Please be aware that something that looks like a bruise but doesn't go away needs to be checked out!

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