Diagnosis of Melanoma
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Some people go to their doctor because they find something out of the ordinary on their skin. Sometimes a suspicious mole is found during a routine exam. The doctor will ask about your family history and health past. A dermatoscope is used to magnify moles during a skin exam. Your doctor may think you have melanoma based on this information.
Diagnosis of Melanoma
The only way to confirm melanoma is with a skin biopsy. Small samples are taken and looked at in a lab for cancer cells. Types of skin biopsies:
Lymph Node Biopsy
Melanoma can spread down to the next layer of skin. In these cases, a lymph node biopsy can be done. Lymph tissue is taken and looked at in a lab for cancer. Cancer in the lymph tissue means it has spread past the mole.
Types of lymph node biopsies:
Staging of Melanoma
Results from those tests and new tests will help find the stage of cancer. Staging looks at the details of the tumor and how much it has spread. This, along with age, overall health, and outlook help with planning treatment.
These tests include:
Stages of Melanoma
Melanoma is staged from 0 to 4 based on size, if ulcers are present, and how far the cancer has spread.
General information about melanoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/melanoma-treatment-pdq. Updated May 1, 2019. Accessed May 9, 2019.
Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115302/Melanoma . Updated March 26, 2019. Accessed May 9, 2019.
Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cancers-of-the-skin/melanoma. Updated March 2019. Accessed May 9, 2019.
Stages of melanoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/melanoma-treatment-pdq#_96. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed May 9, 2019.
Tests for melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed May 9, 2019.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 3/10/2021
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