NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Melanoma

19 NCCN Guidelines for Patients ® : Melanoma, 2018 2  Tests for melanoma General health tests Treatment planning starts with testing. This chapter describes the tests that are used to confirm (diagnose) melanoma and plan treatment. This information can help you use the Treatment guide in Part 5. It may also help you know what to expect during testing. Not every person with melanoma will receive every test listed. General health tests Your doctor or health care provider may send you to a dermatologist if you have signs of skin cancer. A dermatologist is a doctor who’s an expert in diseases of the skin. Most skin changes aren’t cancer, but sometimes only a dermatologist will know. This section describes common exams and tests used by dermatologists. Medical history Your medical history includes any health events in your life and any medications you’ve taken. This information may affect which cancer treatment is best for you. It may help to make a list of old and new medications while at home to bring to your doctor’s office. Your doctor will ask about any symptoms and medical conditions that you have had. There will be specific questions about your skin and moles. Some health problems, including melanoma, can run in families. Therefore, your doctor will ask about the medical history of your immediate family and other risk factors you have for melanoma. A risk factor is something that increases the chance of getting a disease. (See page 15 for more details on risk factors.) A medical history is needed for treatment planning. It may help to make a list of old and new medicines while at home to bring to your doctor’s office. Physical exam Doctors often give a physical exam along with taking a medical history. A physical exam is a review of your body for signs of disease. Your doctor will also perform a medical skin exam. For this, your doctor will carefully inspect your skin for lesions and areas that look abnormal (not normal). A lesion is an area of abnormal tissue that has been damaged by disease or injury. † † Your doctor will note the size, shape, color, and texture of any lesions. † † Your doctor will also feel for enlarged lymph nodes in the area where the melanoma lesion is or was located. Unusual symptoms, such as bleeding or scaling, may be other signs of cancer. Be sure to have skin exams on a regular basis. Besides your skin, other parts of your body may be examined to look for signs of cancer. During this exam: † † Your doctor may listen to your lungs, heart, and intestines. † † Parts of your body, such as your liver or spleen, may be felt to see if organs are of normal size, are soft of hard, or cause pain when touched.