If your healthcare professional suspects melanoma, they will first perform a skin biopsy, which means taking a tissue sample for examination by a pathologist. This can involve removing the entire lesion or a portion of it. A diagnosis of melanoma can only be confirmed through analysis of the biopsy specimen under a microscope.
If the pathologist makes a diagnosis of melanoma, they will then look for features such as tumor thickness and whether it is ulcerated to determine the melanoma stage. Knowing the stage can help to estimate the risk of recurrence or metastasis – including the likelihood that your melanoma may have spread to the sentinel lymph nodes (the first lymph nodes to which your melanoma could have spread).