I Think I Have Melanoma…What Should I Do?
Are you concerned about a suspicious spot on your body? Keep reading to understand some important information, including steps you can take to know for sure and what you can expect along the way.
- Most moles aren't melanoma. The majority of moles are NOT melanoma. Melanoma most commonly arises from a newly appearing mole or a mole that has changed or evolved. If you notice any changes in existing moles or the appearance of a new mole, it is important to see a dermatologist.
- Make an appointment with a dermatologist. Don't delay! The first step in discovering if a mole is cancerous is to call a dermatologist, preferrably one who specializes in skin cancer and melanoma, so you know for sure. You can start by checking the American Academy of Dermatology's (AAD) website to search for a dermatologist in your area. The AAD may also have a free skin check in your area. Don’t put off making an appointment – the earlier you catch melanoma, the easier it is to treat.
- Get a full-body scan by your dermatologist. Your dermatologist should perform a full-body skin exam and should be checking everywhere, even places that don’t see the sun. Don’t be nervous – this is the best way to find a suspicious spot that may be hiding.
A full-body scan by your dermatologist will result in one of two next steps:
- The "all-clear" until next year. Great! Remember to be diligent about your annual skin exams by your dermatologist, and don't forget your monthly self-skin exams at home! If you notice anything new, unusal or changing, call your dermatologist.
- A biopsy. Don't worry! Your dermatologist has noticed something that he or she would like to take a closer look at under a microscope. A biopsy is the removal of all or some of the unusual spot, followed by the examination of the tissue under a microscope. The tissue should be examined by a dermatopathologist. specializing in melanoma biopsies. After the tissue has been analyzed, a pathology report then will be written. This report will include detailed information which will help your dermatologist determine what, if anything, should be done next. It will also contain a great deal of information, the most important being whether the suspicous spot is benign (non-cancerous) or is melanoma. If the spot is determined to be melanoma, your doctor may need to take another, larger biopsy in order to get clear margins – or completely remove the tumor. Your dermatologist should discuss any necessary next steps with you.
If your biopsy has come back as melanoma, know that you are not alone. Visit our Newly Diagnosed section to learn about our free patient resources, supportive services and other important information to have after a melanoma diagnosis.
Remember, the earlier you catch melanoma, the easier it is to treat!