Typical Patient Journey: Melanoma

Your providers will tailor a screening and treatment plan specifically for you. Here is an example of a common screening and treatment path for skin cancer. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer or are suspected to be at risk for skin cancer you can expect to follow most of these steps.

  • Physical exam with a dermatologist – If you notice an abnormal area on your skin, or notice changes in size, shape, color or texture of existing moles, freckles and birth marks, the first step is to have it evaluated by a dermatologist. Your primary care provider can refer you to a dermatologist.
  • Biopsy – If your dermatologist feels the area of concern is suspicious, he or she will biopsy the area. A biopsy involves taking a sample of the lesion and sending it to pathology for examination under a microscope. A pathologist can determine if cancer cells are present.
  • Surgery – If cancer cells are detected on the biopsy, you may have surgery to have the lesion removed. The lesion will be sent back to pathology for examination.
  • Imaging – If there is concern for metastatic disease (cancer that has spread), additional imaging may be needed to determine how far the cancer cells have spread. This process is called staging.
  • Treatment – If cancer is present in surrounding tissues or lymph nodes, you will be referred to medical oncology to discuss next steps. Next steps include determining further treatment options, such as immunotherapy, and how to prevent the melanoma from coming back. If the cancer is localized (has not spread), further treatment may not be necessary. Most melanoma cancers will not have lymph node involvement and may be treated with surgery only.