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What happens next?
Whatever method is used to take a biopsy, the tissue is sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope for cancer cells.
The biopsy that has been taken is processed as a priority to confirm the diagnosis. You will be given the results of your biopsy and details of any follow-up and further treatment you require via your GP, by a letter from your consultant or at a hospital appointment. This may be arranged before you leave hospital or once the results are known to your consultant.
Sometimes the biopsy will completely remove any cancer, and no further treatment will be needed. The likelihood of a melanoma spreading depends on how thick it is. This is measured in the laboratory on the skin sample that was taken at biopsy.
Basal cell carcinoma is a relatively harmless tumour, provided it is treated early and adequately. Most patients will be cured by their first treatment, and the risk of it spreading to other sites in the body will be extremely small.
For more general information, see our page on biopsy.
Whatever the outcome, a cancer diagnosis can be shocking. You may want emotional and practical support and advice for yourself and your family. You will find more information in the following sections "What will life be like after treatment?" and "Where can I get more information?".
Your medical team’s specialist nurse will also be able to answer many of your questions and signpost you to further sources of support. There are a number of cancer information centres across the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cancer Network. Patients and carers can speak to a cancer nurse or trained volunteer about any aspect of cancer, its treatment and living with a cancer diagnosis.
If cancer is detected, you may need further tests, to find out whether the cancer has spread. The most likely test you will have is a chest x-ray.
If you have melanoma further tests you may have will depend on how thick it is. If it is thin you may not need any further tests. If it is thick you may need tests to check the size, thickness and whether it has spread. These are known as staging investigations, and may include:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Lymph node biopsy, or biopsy of other tissues
- Ultrasound scan
- MRI scan
- PET scan
(Click on the above links for more on these tests.)