Tests and next steps for non-melanoma skin cancer
Main test for non-melanoma (excision biopsy)
If a GP refers you to a specialist because they think you could have non-melanoma skin cancer, you'll have tests to check for cancer.
The specialist will check your skin and ask you about any changes you've noticed. They may use a magnifying device that lets them look at the skin more closely.
The specialist may also recommend having a small area of affected skin cut out so it can be sent to a lab and checked for cancer. This is known as an excision biopsy.
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Getting your results
You should get the results of the excision biopsy within 2 weeks. They will be sent to the GP or the hospital where you had the procedure.
Try not to worry if your results are taking longer than you expect. It does not mean anything is wrong.
You can call the hospital or GP if you're worried. They should be able to update you.
A specialist will explain what the results mean and what will happen next. You may want to bring someone with you for support.
If you're told you have non-melanoma skin cancer
Being told you have non-melanoma skin cancer can feel overwhelming. You may be feeling anxious about what will happen next.
It can help to bring someone with you to any appointments you have.
A group of specialists will look after you throughout your diagnosis.
Your team will include a clinical nurse specialist, who will be your main point of contact during and after treatment.
You can ask them any questions you have.
Macmillan has a free helpline that's run by trained cancer information advisers.
The helpline is open 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.
Call 0808 808 00 00.
If you have been told you have non-melanoma skin cancer, you may have some more tests to see how deep the cancer is and how far it's spread (called staging).
Tests you may have include:
You may not need these tests. It depends on the type of non-melanoma skin cancer you have.
The most common type, called basal cell carcinoma (BCC), rarely spreads to other areas of the body, so more tests are only needed if it's very large.
A less common type called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) sometimes spreads, so tests may be needed.
The test results will help your specialist decide what treatment you need.
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Page last reviewed: 4 May 2023
Next review due: 4 May 2026