Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Imaging & Biopsy

In determining whether a suspicious lesion, bump or affected area is cancer, doctors will take a biopsy — removing all or part of the abnormal area — and send it to our dermatopathologists for examination and testing. For suspected non-melanoma skin cancers, your physician will likely do one of the following procedures:

  • Shave biopsy – abnormal growth is shaved off with a sharp blade
  • Punch biopsy – a sharp, hollow device removes a small but deep sample of tissue
  • Incisional biopsy – only a piece of the lesion is removed
  • Excisional biopsy – the entire mole or growth and some tissue around it is removed with a scalpel

Other Tests

Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other places in the body. However, certain squamous cell carcinomas that are determined to be high risk may spread to lymph nodes and other organs. If your skin cancer is at high risk of spreading, you may be recommended additional blood tests, imaging tests or even procedures to learn whether the cancer has grown deeper in the skin or spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Whether or not cancer is found in these areas helps determine the stage of your cancer.