Skin Cancer Detection and Diagnosis

If you have a mole or bump on your skin that seems suspicious to you and might be cancerous, please contact an Aurora doctor for a skin exam. Skin cancer is diagnosed with a skin biopsy. Detecting skin cancer involves removing a sample of the suspected skin tissue. This tissue is later placed under a microscope and examined by a dermatologist or pathologist.

Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers appear on the skin as moles, scaly patches, open sores or raised bumps. These signs can vary among different people, so if you’re concerned about a mole or a bump, please schedule an appointment with an Aurora doctor to determine if the mole or bump is cancerous. There are two categories of skin cancer that can develop:

  • Nonmelanoma (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas)
  • Melanoma

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers

Basal cell carcinoma often looks like a small, dome-shaped pimple that has a pearly color. Blood vessels may be seen on the surface. Some basal cell carcinomas may look like a pink, shiny patch or a sore that does not heal.

Squamous cell carcinoma usually looks like a red, crusty or scaly patch on the skin, a non-healing sore or a firm, red bump. These signs generally appear on skin that’s been exposed to the sun.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Malignant melanoma often develops in or near a mole. A change in the shape, color or size of a mole, or a mole that becomes painful or begins to itch or bleed can be a warning sign. Some melanomas develop suddenly and without warning.

When looking for melanoma on your skin, think of the "ABCDE" rule:

Asymmetry: Half of the mole’s shape is different than the other half.
Border: The mole’s edges are ragged or blurred.
Color: The mole is uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue.
Diameter: The size usually is large, greater than the tip of a pencil eraser (6 millimeters).
Enlargement: The mole has increased in size.
Evolution: The mole looks different from the rest or is changing size, shape or color.

While most melanomas fit the ABCDE rules, others do not. So please have a doctor inspect the suspicious mole.

Melanomas are grouped by depth (how deep the tumor has grown into the skin), and by how far it has spread in the body. The depth of the melanoma is the most important factor that influences the outcome.

If skin cancer is large or deep, or if it has possibly spread to other parts of the body, the physician may order more tests:

  • Biopsy of sentinel lymph nodes
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan

Learn more about Aurora Health Care’s skin cancer services and Aurora's specific skin cancer treatment options, or call 888-649-6892.