How Is Melanoma Diagnosed?
Your doctor will remove a sample area of your skin if she thinks that a change in your skin is a sign of a melanoma. Your tissue sample, called a biopsy, is sent to a laboratory for examination by a specialist, called a pathologist. The pathologist will study your tissue sample under a microscope to confirm your doctor’s diagnosis. Sometimes your doctor will have the equipment in their own office to do a preliminary examination of the tissue.
The best way to treat an early stage melanoma is to have it surgically removed. Melanoma in later stages can require much more extensive treatment because it may have spread to other areas of the body. The best way of dealing with melanoma is to detect it in the early stages and remove it as early as possible. Regular skin exams are the key to catching melanoma early.
Reduce Your Risk Of Melanoma
One way to reduce your risk of getting melanoma is to avoid exposure to intense sunlight. The most intense sunlight is during the midday, and even more intense during the summer. If you are fair-skinned or have a tendency to develop many moles or atypical moles, then you have an increased risk of developing melanoma – and you should especially avoid exposure to intense sunlight.
Avoid the sun when it is high in the sky. Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (30 is even stronger). Don’t forget that sunscreen does not totally protect against the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays. It’s important to remember to apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. Also reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating excessively. Also, wear protective clothing, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when in the sun. Remember that sunlamps and tanning beds are not “safe” ways to tan – they increase your risk of skin cancer!
Check Your Skin Regularly
You need to be familiar with the patterns of moles, freckles and birthmarks on your body. You should check your skin on a regular basis and look for changes. You should be looking for changes to the number, size, shape or color of spots on your skin. You may need help from someone to check the skin on your back. Let your doctor know if you find any new or changing skin growth.
It’s easiest to check your skin once a month right after a shower or bath. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and use a hand mirror so you can see your back. Check from the top of your head to your toes and make a mental note of any changes.
Steps For A Monthly Skin Exam
Check your face, ears, neck, chest and belly while facing the mirror. Next, check the top and bottom of your arms, the top and palms of your hands and don’t forget your nails. Sit down and check the front of your legs, the tops of your feet and between your toes – and don’t forget your toenails. Also check the bottom of your feet, the backs of your legs (use a hand-held mirror). Stand up and use the hand mirror to check your buttocks, the lower and upper part of your back, the back of your neck and also your genital area.
If you perform this exam regularly you will become familiar with what is “normal” for your body. Alert your doctor if you notice changes. If you do this you increase your chances of detecting melanoma in the early stages. Early detection is the key to defeating skin cancer!