Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Diagnosis

If you have a change on the skin, the doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or to some other cause. Your doctor removes all or part of the area that looks abnormal. The sample goes to a lab. A pathologist checks the sample under a microscope. This is a biopsy. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose skin cancer.

You may have the biopsy in a doctor’s office or as an outpatient in a clinic or hospital. Where it is done depends on the size and place of the abnormal area on your skin. You probably will have local anesthesia.

There are four common types of skin biopsies:

  1. Punch biopsy: A sharp, hollow tool is used to remove a circle of tissue from the abnormal area.
  2. Incisional biopsy: A scalpel is used to remove part of the growth.
  3. Excisional biopsy: A scalpel is used to remove the entire growth and some tissue around it.
  4. Shave biopsy: A thin, sharp blade is used to shave off the abnormal growth.

The biopsy results will make it possible for the doctor to determine the type of cancer. This impacts the treatments that are available to you. It can also play a part in staging of the skin cancer


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