Diagnostic Highlights

Test

Normal Result

Abnormality with Condition

Explanation

Shave biopsy

No cancer cells present

Presence of melanoma cells

Scrapes off the top layers of skin; may not be thick enough to determine the degree of cancer invasion

Punch biopsy

No cancer cells present

Presence of melanoma cells

Removes a deep sample of skin melanoma cells after numbing the site; cuts through all layers of skin

Incisional and excisional biopsy (preferred method)

No cancer cells present

Presence of melanoma cells

Uses a surgical knife to cut through the full thickness of skin and removes a wedge of skin: Incisional biopsy removes only a portion; excisional biopsy removes entire tumor

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy

No cancer cells present

Presence of melanoma cells

Uses a thin needle to remove a very small tissue fragment; may be used to biopsy a lymph node near a melanoma to determine the extent of the disease

Other Tests: To diagnose metastases: computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-rays

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