How is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?


If a mole has begun to look suspicious or you notice a change in your skin texture that could be an early sign of skin cancer, don’t wait—make an appointment with dermatologist to get to the bottom of your symptoms.

To rule out skin cancer your doctor will conduct a:

  • Full body cancer screening – Your doctor will examine your skin closely to establish whether the changes in your skin could be cancer
  • Skin biopsy – If the doctor feels the area needs further investigation, a biopsy will be performed. Your doctor will remove a small piece of the skin and send it to the laboratory for further testing. This biopsy can conclude whether you have skin cancer and, if so, which type of cancer it is.

Skin cancer screening

How is Skin Cancer Treated?


Each type of skin cancer is treated differently. Some cancers require removal through surgery while others, such as basal cell carcinoma, may only require topical medication. Other treatment approaches may include:

  • Freezing (cryotherapy) – An extremely cold liquid (liquid nitrogen) is sprayed on the area to remove some forms of basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma in situ
  • Excisional surgery – A skin cancer treatment where the doctor will use a scalpel to remove tumors, moles, cysts, skin cancer or other growths on the skin using local anesthesia. Some healthy skin tissue is also removed during this procedure.
  • Mohs surgery – The most effective way to treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. This type of specialized surgery is available at NewYork-Presbyterian and has the highest cure rate.
  • Curettage – A small instrument called a curette is used to scrape away cancerous and precancerous skin tissue
  • Radiation – Combined with other therapies, radiation is used to eliminate aggressive cancer cells or recurrent skin cancer
  • Immunotherapy – Uses medicine to support a person's immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells more effectively
  • Targeted therapy – Uses medicine to interrupt the cancer cell division by targeting the molecules that allow the cancer cells to spread
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) – Uses a drug that is activated by laser light to kill cancer cells
  • Biological therapy – Also called immunotherapy, biological therapy uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer cells

More to explore



Skin cancer usually has irregular borders with ragged edges. The skin pigment may spread to the surrounding skin. The color of skin cancer may appear uneven, displaying various shades of black, brown, and tan. Other areas may appear white, gray, red, pink, or blue.

Skin cancer may feel scaly or flat, like a scar, depending on the type of cancer.

Only a doctor can determine whether an area has developed skin cancer by performing a skin biopsy.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma make up about 80% of all diagnosed skin cancers.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer; however, several precautions can be taken to reduce your risk.

Usually, skin cancer is initially discovered by self-examination. If you notice a mole that has changed in color or shape or an area of skin has taken on a different appearance, make an appointment with a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Skin Cancer Care

If you’re concerned about the appearance of a mole or area of your skin, don't wait. Make an appointment with one of the experienced skin cancer specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian. Our doctors are here find the right diagnosis and treatment for you.