How is melanoma diagnosed?

A diagnosis of melanoma begins with an examination of your skin

Our skin check leaflet can help you monitor your moles. Speak to your GP immediately if you notice any changes.

  • Initially your GP or a specialist dermatologist may take digital photos of your mole or lesion. They may use a dermatoscope, a type of magnifying tool, to enable them to view deeper layers of your skin
  • If a skin lesion or mole appears suspicious, it may be removed, or alternatively a biopsy taken for further evaluation. This is usually done with a local anaesthetic, so you shouldn’t feel any pain
  • If melanoma is confirmed, you may require further tests and treatment
  • We’ve put together some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and useful tips to help you know what to expect if you have been diagnosed with melanoma. Click here to read more.
Dermatologist examines skin cancer
  • Remember if you have an early-stage melanoma (stage 1 or 2), you are unlikely to feel unwell or have any additional symptoms other than the appearance, or change in appearance, of your mole or lesion. This is why you must contact your GP if you notice a new mole, lesion, nail streak or a change in a preexisting area.
  • If diagnosed with a later stage melanoma (stage 3 or 4) you may experience other symptoms, for example at stage 3 some people experience swollen lymph nodes. Find out more.

For melanoma skin cancer (or cutaneous melanoma), (view our Melanoma Stages and Treatment – Patient Guide), an up-to-date resource to support you during you melanoma journey.  There are videos, animations and clear explanations from diagnosis and staging to treatment as well as important wellbeing information such as diet and the microbiome, your mental health, vitamin D and fertility.  It has been designed in partnership with medical and nursing teams and patients to help you know what to expect.

New approaches to diagnosis

Teledermatology

Teledermatology allows specialist dermatologists to quickly examine the photographic images and then only invite you to be seen face-to-face if there are any concerns. You may be offered this service. Our teledermatology page outlines what is involved.
Read more here

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Smartphone apps to aid melanoma diagnosis

There are many smartphone apps currently available that use AI and are intended to help people to identify suspicious moles and help them to decide when to self-refer to a GP. To find out more about the expert opinion on these
Read our current advice