Head and neck mucosal melanoma: Diagnosis and staging
During your appointment your suspected tumour will be examined and a biopsy is usually taken. This is a small sample of the tissue, that will be removed under local anaesthetic. It is then analysed by a pathologist (a specialised doctor who diagnoses diseases from tissue and cells in the body) to determine whether it is a melanoma or not. It typically takes a few weeks to receive the results of your biopsy and this can be a very anxious time. You may have other tests to help diagnose head and neck mucosal melanoma and these tests can also be used to check if the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body.
Staging for head and neck mucosal melanoma
After a diagnosis of head and neck mucosal melanoma, your medical team will work out the ‘stage’. The stage is a way of describing the key features of your melanoma and is helpful in guiding the best treatment and follow-up for you. Your stage provides an indication of how advanced your melanoma is. Staging for mucosal melanoma of the head and neck follows the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Tumour, Node, and Metastasis (TNM) classification as follows:
T3 = Mucosal disease (localised melanoma in the mucosal area which means that it has not spread anywhere else)
T4a = Moderately advanced disease that’s spread to other tissue types (e.g. soft tissue, cartilage and skin).
T4b = Advanced disease that has spread more extensively (e.g nerves, arteries, the brain and skull).