Specialized Diagnostics and Testing

The Melanoma / Skin Cancer Program provides expert diagnosis and staging using advanced imaging technologies and research-based molecular testing including:

  • Computerized tomographic (CT): A computer-generated image of a series of x-rays, which shows the location of cancer in the body
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Shows the difference between normal and cancerous tissue inside the body
  • Positron emission tomography (PET): Shows the activity of cells in the body, and cancer cells appear brighter than other cells in these images
  • Ultrasound evaluation of nodal basins: Using high-definition ultrasound, doctors can examine the lymph nodes close to the melanoma to see if it has moved beneath the skin and is at risk of spreading throughout the body
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: The lymph nodes nearest the melanoma are tested. If cancer is found, the sentinel lymph node containing cancer is important in predicting how the disease will progress and how it should be treated.
  • Molecular testing (e.g., V600EBRAF): Almost half of all melanoma patients have a mutation in a gene called BRAF. In clinical trials, metastatic melanoma patients are being tested for the BRAF mutation to determine the best treatment, in the same way that patients with breast cancer are tested for HER2 to determine treatment.