Skin Cancer Signs & Diagnosis

Early detection of skin cancer through self or professional examination is extremely important.  This is especially urgent for melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Melanoma can be found in or under your skin, hair and nails, which can make its discovery very difficult.

Signs of Skin Cancer

The most important sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape or color. Another important signal of melanoma is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. If you have any of these warning signs — all of which can be found through a skin cancer self-examination — have your skin checked by a doctor.

Diagnostic Tests for Skin Cancer

If an abnormal area of your skin raises the suspicion of skin cancer, your doctor will perform exams and tests to find out if it is melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer or some other skin condition. If melanoma is confirmed, other tests may be done to determine if it has spread to other areas of the body.

The exams and tests will likely include any or all of these steps.

  • Medical history and physical exam may include your personal and family history, and physical examination.
  • Skin biopsy will be ordered to determine if the spot is a melanoma,Your doctor will take a sample of skin from the suspicious area to be looked at under a microscope (biopsy).
  • Other biopsies may be needed. In some cases, biopsies of lymph nodes or other areas  of concern may be conducted to see if the cancer has spread, and, if so, how far.
  • Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans and other tests may be used to determine the possible spread of melanoma and to assess how well treatments are working.

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