Appropriate diagnosis and staging of metastatic melanoma is critical, as the treatment options and prognosis are dependent on it. Your doctor may order the following tests to diagnose your condition or rule out similar diseases.

Tests to Determine Whether Tissue is Benign or Malignant

  • Fine Needle Aspirate: Thin needle is inserted into the abnormal appearing tissue or fluid. The tissue or fluid is then aspirated (sucked into the syringe) and placed into a sterile container for analysis.
  • Shave Biopsy: Layer of tissue is removed and sent for evaluation. May leave scarring.
  • Punch Biopsy: Punch instrument is used with downward and circular pressure to remove a circular section through all the layers of the lesion.
  • Incisional Biopsy: Scalpel is used to remove a small sampling of a larger lesion which is then sent for evaluation.
  • Excisional Biopsy: Scalpel is used to remove the entire lesion which is then sent for evaluation. This is done for smaller lesions.

Tests to Determine Spread of Metastatic Melanoma

  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: Determines stage, or extent of cancer in the body. The sentinel or first lymph node that is most apt to become cancerous from the primary tumor is identified. This is done by radioactive or blue dye injected by the surgeon near the tumor. A device is used to detect the node radioactively or those stained with the blue dye. A small incision is then made in the skin over the node which is then removed.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Visualizes and describes any abnormalities of internal organs. A patient lies on a table that slides into a large tunnel-shaped machine. Gadolinium (dye) is injected into the vein to help make the images more clear.