Many people will need only a biopsy. Some people will have further tests such as blood tests or imaging scans to get more information about the melanoma. You may also have these tests during treatment or as part of follow-up care after treatment finishes.
Imaging scans use different methods to create images of the inside of the body:
The person doing the ultrasound will move a handheld device called a transducer across part of your body. The transducer sends out soundwaves that echo when they meet something solid, such as an organ or tumour. A computer turns the echoes into pictures.
A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-ray beams to create detailed, cross-sectional pictures. Before the scan, you may have an injection of a liquid dye (called the contrast) to make the pictures clearer. The CT scanner is large and round like a doughnut. You will need to lie still on a table while the scanner moves around you.
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to create detailed cross-sectional pictures.
Before the scan, you may have an injection of a liquid dye (called the contrast) to make the pictures clearer. During the scan, you will lie on an examination table that slides into a large metal tube that is open at both ends. The scan can be noisy, but you will usually be offered headphones or earplugs.
A PET (positron emission tomography) scan combined with a CT scan is a specialised imaging test. You will be injected in the arm with a glucose solution containing a small amount of radioactive material. Cancer cells show up brighter on the scan because they take up more of the glucose solution than normal cells do.
The information on this page is also available for download.
A/Prof Robyn Saw, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Prof Bryan Burmeister, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Fraser Coast and Hervey Bay Hospital, QLD; Tamara Dawson, Consumer, Melanoma & Skin Cancer Advocacy Network; Prof Georgina Long, Co-Medical Director, Melanoma Institute Australia, and Chair, Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Alexander Menzies, Medical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Paige Preston, Chair, Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia; Prof H Peter Soyer, Chair in Dermatology and Director, Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, and Director, Dermatology Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Julie Teraci, Clinical Nurse Consultant and Coordinator, WA Kirkbride Melanoma Advisory Service, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Patient rights and responsibilities
What you can reasonably expect from your health care providers
Learn more about skin cancer, which is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin
Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope