If a mole or pigmented area of the skin changes or looks abnormal, a doctor will perform a more detailed evaluation of the lesion, as well as a thorough skin exam to look for other abnormalities.

The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells.

The biopsy will remove much of the abnormal mole or lesion as possible.

Usually, this procedure takes only a few minutes and can be done in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital.

The tissue sample is then sent to a lab and a pathologist or dermatopathologist will look at the tissue under a microscope to check for melanoma.

Reference: National Cancer Institute

Last updated March 27, 2013.

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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