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
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.
All rights reserved.