Melanoma is diagnosed through skin examinations and tissue biopsy.
If your physician finds a suspicious skin lesion requiring additional analysis, some or all of the lesion will be surgically removed for analysis.
The tissue is sent to NYU's dedicated dermatopathologist, who has specialized expertise in the analysis of skin tissue to determine the possible presence of cancer cells. For patients with small lesions (less than 1 mm thick), the surgeon will sometimes remove the entire lesion at the time of biopsy during an outpatient office visit. For patients with lesions thicker than 1 mm, the surgeon may need to remove nearby lymph nodes to be analyzed for the presence of cancer cells.
Sentinel Node Biopsy
Sentinel node biopsy, a less invasive technique pioneered at NYU, spares many patients from the postoperative discomfort that accompanies traditional lymph node removal. During this procedure, doctors identify and remove the "sentinel" node-the one lymph node to which cancer cells are most likely to spread-for analysis. If it is free of cancer cells, no additional lymph nodes are removed. If the sentinel node contains cancer cells, additional nodes are removed for further analysis.