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.