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How is melanoma diagnosed?

A complete medical history, with special attention paid to family history of melanoma among immediate family members such as father, mother, brother, or sister, and a physical exam help your physician determine the level of risk that your signs or symptoms are melanoma. The only definitive way to diagnose melanoma is a biopsy of the abnormal area of the skin, which can be analyzed in the lab.

The first step of diagnosing melanoma usually involves a visual inspection. If you notice an unusual growth or change in a mole on your own skin, see a doctor right away. The doctor will visually examine the mole or growth. If the doctor suspects melanoma, a biopsy will be performed, which involves removing the growth and analyzing it under a microscope. The method of biopsy depends on the size and shape of the growth. If it's a small mole or growth, the doctor will likely remove the whole growth for the biopsy. If the growth is larger, a doctor will usually remove only a part of the growth. If melanoma is confirmed, doctors will analyze the thickness and depth of the growth to determine the extent of the cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.