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); or
  • a melanoma requiring surgery.

Some doctors are skilled in a clinical technique called epiluminescence microscopy (also called dermatoscopy). They cover a suspicious spot with oil and examine it with a brightly lit magnifying instrument. The gold standard for a solid 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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