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Diagnosing melanoma

Man checks skinMelanoma is usually found when you check your own skin for new or changing moles, freckles or spots. Use the ABCDEs of melanoma as a guideline for the changes to look for.

If you're at a higher risk of melanoma, you could consider getting a photographic skin check. You could also try a phone app to help you monitor your spots and any changes.

If you find any concerning spots or lumps (lesions), you'll need a GP or dermatologist (skin doctor) to take a look at them. They may use a magnifying instrument called a dermatoscope.

If the doctor is concerned about the lesion, they will remove it. This is called excision. The doctor will then send it to be looked at under a microscope to find out what type it is, how deep in the skin it has gone, and if it's all been removed.

If your doctor is worried that it might have spread elsewhere, you may need further tests, called staging.

Staging melanoma

The tests used to stage melanoma include blood tests, looking at the nearby lymph nodes (this is called sentinel node biopsy), and scans such as ultrasound and CT scans. You can read more about the tests that can be used to help with staging on the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand website.

After looking at the melanoma and doing extra tests if needed, doctors put a melanoma into one of five stages:

The treatment you need will depend on the stage.

On the next page: Treating melanoma

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2021.


See also:

Preventing melanoma & other skin cancers

Page reference: 37529

Review key: HIMEL-15455