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Melanoma screening tests, such as a skin exam or a biopsy, look for melanoma before any symptoms are present. Your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she recommends a screening test. A test may be recommended based on your risk factors. Before having a melanoma screening test, discuss any possible risks with your doctor and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer.

Melanoma Screening: An Overview

Melanoma screening entails looking for melanoma before a person has any melanoma symptoms. These screening tests can help detect cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have already begun to spread.
It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a melanoma screening test. These tests are only given when you have no melanoma symptoms. If a melanoma screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
Specific melanoma screening tests include a skin exam and a biopsy.
Melanoma Screening With a Skin Exam
Skin examinations are commonly used to screen for melanoma. Regular examination of the skin by both you and your doctor will increase the chance of finding melanoma early. Most melanomas that appear in the skin can be seen by the naked eye. And, in most cases, there is a long period of time when the tumor grows beneath the top layer of skin but does not grow into the deeper skin layers. This period of slow growth allows time for skin cancer to be found early. The cancer may be cured if the tumor is found before it spreads deeper. Monthly self-examination of the skin may help find changes that should be reported to a doctor. Regular skin checks by a doctor are important for people who have already had skin cancer.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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