Exams and Tests
Evaluation of a skin lesion
physical exam of the skin is used to evaluate the skin
melanoma. If melanoma is suspected, a
skin biopsy will be done. For this, your doctor will
remove a sample of skin tissue and send it to a
pathologist to be looked at under a microscope. If the
biopsy shows melanoma, the pathologist will measure the thickness of the
melanoma to find out how advanced the cancer is.
may include total-body photography to monitor for changes in any mole and to
watch for new moles appearing in normal skin. A series of photos of the
suspicious lesions may be taken. Then the photos can be used as a baseline to
compare with follow-up photos.
Evaluation of lymph nodes
will do a physical exam that includes checking the lymph nodes to see whether
they are larger than normal. This may be followed by a sentinel lymph node biopsy to see whether the melanoma has
spread to the
Evaluation for possible metastases (spread of cancer)
A complete medical history and a physical exam are needed to find out
whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.
Imaging tests, including positron emission tomography (PET scan),
computed tomography (CT scan), or
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be used to
identify metastases in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain,
liver, or other organs.
Skin self-exam is a good way to detect
early skin changes that may point to melanoma. A skin self-exam is used to
find suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into
skin cancer (precancers). Adults should examine their skin once every month.
Look for any abnormal skin growth or any change in the color, shape, size, or
appearance of a skin growth. Check for any area of injured skin (lesion) that
does not heal. Have your spouse or someone such as a close friend help you
monitor your skin, especially places that are hard to see such as your scalp
There are other steps you can take to prevent skin
cancer or detect it at an early stage.
- Be aware of the risk of skin cancer and the
steps you can take to prevent it, including staying out of the midday sun, wearing protective
clothing, and using sunscreen on exposed skin.
- Have your doctor examine
any suspicious skin changes. He or she may check your skin once a year. Or your doctor may suggest a skin exam more often, especially if you have:
- Familial atypical mole and melanoma (FAM-M) syndrome, which is an inherited tendency to develop
melanoma. Examine your skin every month and be examined by a doctor every 4 to
6 months, preferably by the same doctor each time.
exposure to ultraviolet (UV)
radiation because of your job, hobbies, or outdoor activities.
- Abnormal moles called
atypical moles (dysplastic nevi). These moles are not
cancerous. But their presence is a warning of an inherited tendency to develop