NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Melanoma - page 19

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Melanoma
Version 1.2013
Par t 1
Par t 2
Par t 3
Par t 4
Par t 5
Par t 6
Par t 7
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Par t 9
Part 2: Overview of cancer tests
doctor who’s an expert
in testing skin cells and
tissues for disease
The second layer
of skin that is beneath the
top layer (epidermis)
The outer layer
of skin
Local anesthesia:
controlled loss of feeling
in a small area of the
body due to drugs being
administered to that area
A tool that
uses lenses to see things
the eyes can’t
Side effects:
unplanned physical or
emotional response to
At the lab
The biopsy tissue sample will be sent to a lab so a pathologist can examine it with
a microscope for cancer cells. A pathologist is a doctor who’s an expert in testing
cells and tissues for disease. If the pathologist finds melanoma cells, he or she
will determine if the cells are growing into the dermis and measure how deeply
they are growing. The pathologist will also assess other features of the melanoma
and describe them in the pathology report (see below). The pathologist may
perform different tests on the skin biopsy samples if initial test results are unclear.
If the pathologist finds cancer cells in the biopsy sample, your doctor may order
more tests. Depending on the extent of the melanoma, other tests may be done to
see it has spread (metastasized). Metastases are more likely if the skin tumor has
grown deep into the dermis. Possible tests to check for metastases are described
next and include lymph node tests, blood tests, and imaging tests.
The pathology report
A pathology report is a document with information about tissue removed
from your body during a biopsy or surgery. A pathologist examines the tissue
with a microscope to check for cancer cells and then writes the results in the
pathology report. Your doctors will use the information in the pathology report
to decide which treatment is best for you. The pathology report includes
many important test results and details. It states whether cancer cells were
found and, if so, what types of cancer cells. Other results in the pathology
report are used to determine the extent of the cancer, called staging, which
is discussed in Part 3.
The process of preparing the tissue, evaluating it, and reporting the results
to your doctor usually takes at least several days. At times, the pathologist
may have questions and request a 2nd opinion from another pathologist.
For melanoma, the tissue samples should be sent to a dermatopathologist
to examine. Contact your treatment team if you have questions about your
pathology report or if you would like a copy of it.
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