Melanoma is the rarest but most dangerous of the three types of skin cancer. It is potentially life threatening because it will often spread to other parts of the body. This makes it hard to treat and it can damage or destroy vital organs leading to secondary complications.
The key to surviving melanoma is prevention combined with early detection. In most cases, if the disease is detected early on it can be treated successfully. Part of the detection process is a melanoma biopsy. This is often done on a suspicious mole or mark on the skin. It gives more information about the extent to which the cancer has spread and possible ways to treat the cancer.
The most common forms of melanoma biopsy are excisional and incisional. An excisional will remove all the cancerous cells. An incisional biopsy will take a deep sample of the cells, leaving the rest of the cells on the skin.
Incisional biopsies are generally only used on sensitive parts of the body, like the face, where a large wound or scar may cause further distress. Excisional biopsies are used in most other cases. They are preferred because they remove all the growth. This makes sense because if the growth is diagnosed as cancerous it would have to be removed anyway.
Both of these processes can be done at your doctors surgery or at the skin cancer center. It will normally take around thirty minutes depending on the size and position of the suspicious growth. A local anesthetic is applied to the part of the skin where the biopsy will be performed..
The removed cells are sent to a pathologist who will examine them more closely. The pathologist will determine if the cells are malignant. The depth of the growth will also be established and this will give the doctor a better idea of how far the cancer has progressed and possible treatments.
A biopsy is the best way to determine whether an unusual mark on the skin is actually cancerous. It is only performed after a first examination of the mark by a skin specialist who suspects that it could be cancerous. The information returned from the biopsy can be used to formulate a treatment plan for the disease and an indication of the extent that it has progressed.
Once again, early detection is key to surviving melanoma. If a melanoma has not spread it is easy to treat by simply removing the cancerous cells.