If the doctor suspects that a spot on the skin is melanoma, the patient will need to have a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to make a definite diagnosis. In this procedure, the doctor tries to remove all of the suspicious-looking growth. This is an excisional biopsy. If the growth is too large to be removed entirely, the doctor removes a sample of the tissue. The doctor will never "shave off" or cauterize a growth that might be melanoma. A biopsy can usually be done in the doctor’s office using local anesthesia. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Sometimes it is helpful for more than one pathologist to check the tissue for cancer cells. A person who needs a biopsy may want to ask the doctor the following questions:
Why do I need a biopsy?
How long will it take? Will it hurt?
Will the entire tumor be removed?
What side effects can I expect?
How soon will I know the results?
If I do have cancer, who will talk to me about treatment? When?