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How can a doctor tell if a mole is cancerous?

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A visual check of your skin only finds moles that may be cancer. It can’t tell you for sure that you have it. The only way to diagnose the condition is with a test called a biopsy. If your doctor thinks a mole is a problem, she will give you a shot of numbing medicine, then scrape off as much of the mole as possible. You shouldn’t feel pain, only tugging or pressure. She’ll send the sample of your mole to a lab, where a pathologist will check it under a microscope for cancer cells.

SOURCES:

Bruce Robinson, MD, spokesperson, American Academy of Dermatology.

Skin Cancer Foundation: “Make the Most of Your Visit to the Dermatologist,” “Early Detection and Self Exams.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “What to expect at a SPOTme skin cancer screening.”

CDC: “Skin Cancer: What Screening Tests Are There?”

National Cancer Institute: “Skin Cancer Screening (PDQ).”

Journal of the American Medical Association : “Screening for Skin Cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.”

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: “Screening for Skin Cancer in Adults.”

MD Anderson Cancer Center: “Skin Cancer Screening Exams.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Screening Guidelines.”

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on March 31, 2019

SOURCES:

Bruce Robinson, MD, spokesperson, American Academy of Dermatology.

Skin Cancer Foundation: “Make the Most of Your Visit to the Dermatologist,” “Early Detection and Self Exams.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “What to expect at a SPOTme skin cancer screening.”

CDC: “Skin Cancer: What Screening Tests Are There?”

National Cancer Institute: “Skin Cancer Screening (PDQ).”

Journal of the American Medical Association : “Screening for Skin Cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.”

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: “Screening for Skin Cancer in Adults.”

MD Anderson Cancer Center: “Skin Cancer Screening Exams.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Screening Guidelines.”

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on March 31, 2019

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What will the doctor do if the biopsy shows skin cancer?

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