Diagnosis of Melanoma Skin Cancer
Beginning of the diagnosis of melanoma skin cancer, your doctor will check your skin condition and decide if you need further examination by a specialist.
If your doctor suspects a mole is examined as melanoma, you will be referred to see a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for further examination.
A dermatologist or plastic surgeon may perform a biopsy. A small operation to remove a mole that is likely to be melanoma for further study by microscope. This process is done to determine whether the mole was a cancer or not. Biopsy is usually done by local anesthesia. The area around the mole will be numbed and you will not feel any pain.
More surgery is necessary if the mole is cancerous. In most cases, this surgery is performed to remove the affected part of the skin and is handled by a plastic surgeon.
A further test needs to be done to you if there is a concern that the cancer is already spread to other organs, such as to the bone or into your circulatory system. Other tests that may need to be done include:
- Blood test
- X-ray imaging
- MRI Scan
- CT Scan
Biopsy of the Sentinel Lymph Node
Early patterns of melanoma spread generally spread through channels in the skin layer called the lymphatic system, to the nearest lymph nodes. Medically, lymph nodes are also known as ‘lymph nodes’. This gland can be found anywhere in the body. These glands that are part of the immune system help to wipe out unwanted bacteria and particles in the body.
A very small collection of melanoma cells is capable of spreading through the lymphatic system vessels leading to the lymph nodes. For example, melanoma in the arm often spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpit. While melanoma in the legs often spread to the lymph nodes in the groin.
The process of a plastic surgeon named a sentinel lymph node biopsy is a test to determine whether a very small amount of melanoma has spread to the lymph node. Small spreads are usually invisible on the results of X-ray tests, but more easily known by lymph node sentinel biopsy processes.
A mixture of blue ink and a weak radioactive element will include a plastic surgeon around your wound before partial removal of the skin. Just like melanoma cells, blue ink and radioactive elements will flow along the lymphatic channels in the skin. Logically, the combination of these elements leads to the first lymph node, just like the lymph node targeted by the cancer, this is called the sentinel lymph node.
With blue ink and radioactive elements injected, sentinel nodes can be found and removed, while uninfected nodes are usually left unchecked. The node will be submitted to a pathologist to check, recognize, or separate a very small melanoma cell. The whole process can take several weeks.
For patients with lymph nodes that have been infected with melanoma, there is a high probability that melanoma has spread elsewhere. If the sentinel lymph node is clean of melanoma, then other lymph nodes are also clean.
If melanoma is present in the sentinel lymph node, there is a risk of at least a lymph node in the same group also with melanoma. In this condition, to remove all remaining lymph nodes in the infected group will usually be advised. This larger operation is usually referred to as a complete lymph node surgery or a thorough lymphadenectomy.