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Melanoma (cont.)

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How is melanoma diagnosed?

Most doctors diagnose melanoma by examining the spot causing concern and doing a biopsy. A skin biopsy refers to removing all or part of the skin spot under local anesthesia and sending the specimen to a pathologist for analysis.

The biopsy report may show any of the following:

  • a totally benign condition requiring no further treatment, such as a regular mole;
  • an atypical mole which, depending on the judgment of the doctor and the pathologist, may need a conservative removal (taking off a little bit of normal skin all around just to make sure that the spot is completely out); or
  • a melanoma requiring surgery.

Some doctors are skilled in a clinical technique called epiluminescence microscopy (also called dermatoscopy). They cover a suspicious spot with oil and examine it with a brightly lit magnifying instrument. The gold standard for a solid diagnosis, however, remains a skin biopsy.

How do doctors determine the prognosis (outlook) of a melanoma?

The most useful criterion for determining prognosis is tumor thickness. Thin melanomas, those measuring less than 1 millimeter, have excellent cure rates. The thicker the melanoma, the less optimistic the prognosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential.

What is the treatment for melanoma?

In general, melanoma is treated by surgery alone. Doctors have learned that surgery does not need to be as extensive as was thought years ago. When treating many early melanomas, for instance, surgeons only remove 1 centimeter (less than ½ inch) of the normal tissue around the melanoma. Deeper and more advanced cancers may need more extensive surgery.

Depending on various considerations (tumor thickness, body location, age, etc.), the removal of nearby lymph glands may be recommended. For advanced disease, such as when the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, treatments like immunotherapy are sometimes recommended.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2014

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Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Symptoms Question: What did your melanoma look like when you first noticed it? What was the size of the growth?
Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Diagnosis Question: What was the stage of your melanoma when it was diagnosed?
Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Risk Factors and Causes Question: What risk factors do you have for melanoma? What are your concerns?
Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including surgery, did you receive for melanoma?
Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Prevention Question: What steps do you take to prevent melanoma or other skin cancers?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/melanoma/article.htm

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