Alan Rockoff, MD
Dr. Rockoff received his undergraduate degree from Yeshiva College with the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His internship and two years of Pediatric residency were at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, followed by training in Dermatology at the combined residency program at Tufts and Boston Universities. Dr. Rockoff is certified by both the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.
Frederick Hecht, MD, FAAP, FACMG
Frederick Hecht, MD, lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dr. Hecht is a Pediatrician and Medical Geneticist and is certified by both the American Boards of Pediatrics and Medical Genetics. Dr. Hecht was born and raised in Baltimore and attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. and the Sorbonne at the University of Paris receiving his BA degree cum laude with distinction from Dartmouth.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Melanoma facts
- What does melanoma look like? What are the symptoms and signs?
- What if the skin changes are rapid or dramatic?
- What are the causes and risk factors for melanoma?
- How do I know my level of risk for melanoma?
- What are the types of melanoma?
- How is melanoma diagnosed?
- How do doctors determine the prognosis (outlook) of a melanoma?
- What is the treatment for melanoma?
- What methods are available to help prevent melanoma?
- What is in the future for melanoma?
- Additional Resources
- Skin Cancer (Melanoma) FAQs
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
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.
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