Doctors diagnose melanoma by observing a suspicious spot on the scalp or elsewhere and then biopsying the spot and sending it for analysis by a lab, according to MedicineNet. The spot is usually found by observation or when a patient complains of the spot to a doctor and undergoes a physical exam.
During a biopsy for melanoma, the doctor removes all of part of the spot in question, notes MedicineNet. The patient is under local anesthesia during the biopsy. The doctor then forwards the specimen collected to the lab for analysis by a trained pathologist.
The pathologist creates a biopsy report that details the findings of the analysis. After analysis of the specimen, it may be found that the cells were benign, meaning that no further treatment is required. This is oftentimes the case when the spot in question is a regular mole. The report may also indicate an atypical mole that requires conservative removal, which involves removing the normal skin around the spot. Other possibilities include the spot being a thin melanoma that requires surgery or a thicker melanoma that requires additional tests and more extensive surgical procedures. This may include removing lymph nodes that may be affected by the melanoma and the creation of a treatment plan based on the patient's individual circumstances.