Ultrasound and fine needle aspiration (FNA) for melanoma

An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to make up a picture of an area inside the body. It is a painless test and only takes a few minutes. It can be used to check the lymph nodes if you have melanoma.

A doctor or nurse spreads gel over the area where the lymph nodes are. A small device that is shaped like a microphone, and makes sound waves, is then passed over this area. The sound waves are changed into a picture by a computer.

If the ultrasound scan of the lymph nodes is abnormal, the doctor will do a fine needle aspiration. The doctor puts a fine needle into the lymph node and withdraws a sample of cells into the syringe. A doctor who specialises in studying cells (pathologist) then looks at the sample under a microscope. This is to see if there are any melanoma cells.

If there are melanoma cells, you may have other tests to see if the melanoma has spread anywhere else in the body. If the melanoma has only spread to nearby lymph nodes, your doctor will offer you surgery to remove all the lymph nodes in that area. They will talk to you about the advantages and disadvantages of removing the other lymph nodes.