Diagnostic Highlights

General Comments: The initial diagnosis of skin cancer is made by clinical observation and is confirmed by histologic studies through biopsy.

Test

Abnormality with Normal Result Condition Explanation

Shave biopsy

No cancer cells Presence of cancer cells Scraping off the top layers of skin; may present not be thick enough to determine the degree of cancer invasion

Diagnostic Highlights (continued)

Test

Normal Result

Abnormality with Condition

Explanation

Punch biopsy

No cancer cells present

Presence of cancer cells

Deep sample of skin is removed after numbing the site; cuts through all layers of skin

Incisional and excisional biopsy

No cancer cells present

Presence of cancer cells

Surgical knife is used to cut through full thickness of skin, and a wedge of skin is removed; incisional biopsy removes only a portion; excisional biopsy removes entire tumor

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy

No cancer cells present

Presence of cancer cells

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

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