Diagnosis for Skin Cancer

The most common type of cancer – skin cancer – is also the most easily cured type when it is diagnosed early and promptly treated.

UT Southwestern’s specialized physicians are experts at screening for and diagnosing all types of skin cancer. Many also are involved in clinical research aimed at developing more effective ways to detect and diagnose the disease.

Screening

Skin cancer screening helps UT Southwestern specialists find and treat skin cancer before symptoms appear. To detect pre-cancerous moles and spots, our doctors use proven screening methods that include:

Physical exams

Our specialized physicians conduct thorough physical examinations aimed at recognizing skin abnormalities that could be cancerous or pre-cancerous. They often use a high-powered microscope called a dermatoscope to get a highly detailed look at the skin.

If you have a suspicious mole or growth – or a patch of skin that has changed in shape, color, size, or texture – but be sure to point it out to your doctor.

Full-body photography

If you have numerous moles on your body and/or a family history of skin cancer, our doctors might take photos of your body from different angles. These images will be used as a baseline to help track any changes over time.

Pigmented Skin Lesion Clinical Practice

The only service of its kind in North Texas, this UT Southwestern clinic follows patients with cancer syndromes (including Cowden syndrome and Gorlin syndrome), dysplastic nevi syndrome, those who have undergone organ transplants, and those with strong family histories of skin cancer.

The goal is to identify patients with suspicious moles or other pigmented lesions so that cancerous changes can be detected, treated early, and in some cases, prevented.

Diagnosis

A biopsy (tissue sample) is used to get a definitive diagnosis of skin cancer. If we suspect that a spot on your skin is cancerous or pre-cancerous, we will remove a small sample of the questionable tissue and send it to UT Southwestern’s pathology specialists for evaluation under a microscope.

If skin cancer is confirmed, our pathologists use additional laboratory testing to determine its exact type and stage (degree to which it has spread).

For example, we offer in-house molecular profiling of skin cancers, which enables doctors to identify key mutations (including the BRAF gene in melanoma) and other patient-specific characteristics of the disease. This sophisticated evaluation technique helps our physicians recommend highly personalized, evidence-based therapies.

Your doctor also may take a biopsy of the lymph node closest to the cancerous spot (the sentinel lymph node) or remove the lymph nodes near the affected spot (dissection) to determine if the cancer has metastasized (spread) beyond that spot to other parts of the body.

All diagnostic tests help us determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

Meet the Team

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a specialist in skin cancer screening and diagnosis, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.