What is melanoma?

Melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancer, but it is more likely to grow and spread. Melanoma occurs when skin cells called melanocytes begin to grow rapidly and abnormally. This type of skin cancer is most likely to spread to other areas of the body. Radial growth is when the melanoma spreads along the top layers of your skin. Vertical growth is when the skin cancer grows into the deeper layers of skin and spreads to other areas of the body.

Understanding the risk factors, signs and symptoms of melanoma, and regular skin self-exams are important factors the prevention and early detection of skin cancer.


When an area of the skin has been identified as concerning, there is a process used to diagnosing the skin condition for melanoma and subsequently staging if it is melanoma.

  • Medical history
  • Evaluation of risk factors
  • Physical exam
  • Skin biopsy
    • Shave
    • Punch
    • Excisional
    • Optical
    • Fine needle aspiration
    • Surgical lymph node
    • Sentinel lymph node
  • Imaging tests
  • Blood tests

Melanoma treatment

Melanoma can be serious, but your chances of a full recovery are excellent if your skin cancer is caught early, before your melanoma spreads. The dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons on our medical staff, using the current diagnostic and treatment techniques, offer great hope for your melanoma diagnosis.

Your treatment plan will be determined by your care team based on age, medical history, type and stage of melanoma, and personal preferences. Melanoma treatment options may include:

  • Surgery
  • Lymph node dissection
  • Wide local excision
  • Amputation
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy