General Information About Melanoma
Tests that examine the skin are used to detect (find) and diagnose melanoma.
If a mole or pigmented area of the skin changes or looks abnormal, the following tests and procedures can help detect and diagnose melanoma:
- Skin examination: A doctor or nurse checks the skin for moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture.
- Biopsy: A local excision is done to remove as much of the suspicious mole or lesion as possible. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Because melanoma can be hard to diagnose, patients should consider having their biopsy sample checked by a second pathologist.
Suspicious areas of the skin should be biopsied and not be shaved off or cauterized (destroyed with a hot instrument, an electrical current, or a caustic substance).
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
- The thickness of the tumor and where it is in the body.
- How quickly the cancer cells are dividing.
- Whether there was bleeding or ulceration at the primary site.
- Whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or to other places in the body.
- The number of places cancer has spread to in the body and the level of lactate dehyrogenase (LDH) in the blood.
- The patient's general health.
Although many people are successfully treated, melanoma can recur (come back).