If your healthcare provider believes you may have signs of melanoma, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your melanoma symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

Your provider will also give you a physical exam, including an exam of your skin. You may have one or more of the following tests.

  • Computed tomography (CT). During this imaging test, X-rays create cross-sectional images of the body.
  • . This type of imaging study uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create a 3D image of the body.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scans are useful for examining cancer throughout your body and can help determine the current stage of the cancer. PET is sometimes used in conjunction with a CT scan to better pinpoint the cancer in question.
  • Ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of body tissues on a computer screen. Ultrasounds do not use radiation.

If abnormal spots are seen during a skin exam, a biopsy will be performed. During a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed and then analyzed under a microscope to detect the presence of cancer cells. There are multiple types of biopsies used, including shave biopsy, punch biopsy, incisional biopsy and excisional biopsy. In some cases, a sample of lymph node tissue may also be biopsied to determine if the cancer has spread.

After conducting an overall physical exam, your provider will conduct a skin exam, or skin check, which carefully examines the skin, looking for abnormalities or changes. This will include looking at all skin spots, checking them for color, size, shape and texture.

After a biopsy, patients will be contacted by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

When you are diagnosed with melanoma, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent melanoma, with a focus on individualized patient care.

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the first and only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Kentucky, Markey can serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including melanoma.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating melanoma. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of melanoma.
  • You may want to learn more about different treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources:

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NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.