Melanoma Detection and Diagnosis

Whether your dermatologist finds a suspicious mark during an annual skin check or you notice one of the signs of melanoma yourself, it’s important to detect skin cancer early when treatment works best.

Making a diagnosis involves gathering information in various ways. Your doctor may begin by asking questions about symptoms (such as changes in the spot’s appearance and whether it hurts or itches) and risk factors (such as family members with skin cancer and any history of sunburns).

Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam that will include looking at the lesion, checking the rest of your body for similar marks, and possibly feeling your lymph nodes, which become enlarged if the cancer has spread. Dermatologists may also use a dermatoscope—a small, lighted magnifying instrument—to better see a certain area.

If your doctor suspects melanoma, they will perform a biopsy in order to make a diagnosis and—if melanoma is present—begin the treatment process.