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Screening & Diagnosis 

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Checking your skin regularly for growths or changes is the best way to screen for skin cancer and melanoma. The National Cancer Institute provides guidelines on how to do a skin self-exam.

If you do notice a change in your skin, make an appointment with your doctor. During your visit, the doctor will conduct a skin examination and try to find our if the skin abnormalities are due to cancer or another cause. The only sure way to diagnose skin cancer is through a biopsy.


During a biopsy, all or part of the abnormal-looking growth is cut from the skin and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to see if cancer cells are present. There are four common types of biopsies:

Punch biopsy
The doctor uses a sharp, hollow tool to remove a circle of tissue from the abnormal area.

Incisional biopsy
The doctor uses a scalpel to remove part of the growth.

Excisional biopsy
The doctor uses a scalpel to remove the entire growth and some tissue around it.

Shave biopsy
The doctor uses a thin, sharp blade to shave off the abnormal growth.

Learn more about the diagnosis of skin cancer and melanoma from the National Cancer Institute.

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