Diagnosing & Treating Skin Cancers

You Are Not Alone.

Hoag is here for you. The Hoag Melanoma & Skin Cancer Program is a comprehensive path in Orange County for those seeking diagnosis and treatment for melanoma and non-melanoma cancers, such as basal cell, squamous cell and merkel cell cancers. Featuring a world-class roster of specialists in dermatologic oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, hereditary cancer and skin cancer research, Hoag offers the experience and advanced technology you can rely on for high-risk monitoring, diagnosing and treatment of skin cancer.  

Monitoring for Skin Cancer

Vectra WB360 Total Body Photography is available at Hoag – Hoag is the first hospital on the West Coast to offer high-risk skin cancer patients access to the Vectra WB360 as part of its comprehensive Melanoma & Skin Cancer Program. This breakthrough technology allows for whole-body monitoring of suspicious lesions and tracking changes over time.

Hereditary Skin Cancer – For more than a decade, Hoag has been Southern California’s leader in advanced genetic profiling to detect the presence or potential risk of developing certain cancers. Skin cancers that may be hereditary include:

  • Melanoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

If you are concerned about an elevated risk due to a family history of skin cancer, learn more about Hoag’s Hereditary Cancer Program.

Diagnosing Skin Cancer

Early detection of skin cancer is key to improved outcomes and keeping the cancer from spreading. At Hoag, our skin cancer detection and dermatologic oncology program is second to none when it comes to the accurate, early diagnosis that saves lives. The type of skin cancer is usually determined by where the cancer begins, or which cells are cancerous. Some of these cell types include: 

  • Squamous – found in the upper (outer) part of the epidermis. Squamous cell carcinoma starts in these cells.
  • Basal – found in the lower part of the epidermis. Basal cell carcinoma starts in these cells.
  • Melanocytes – these cells make the brown pigment called melanin which gives your skin its tan or brown color. Melanoma skin cancer starts in these cells.
  • Merkel – found in the top layer of the skin, very close to the nerve endings that receive the sensation of touch. Merkel cell carcinoma usually appears as a single painless lump on areas of the skin exposed to ultraviolet rays and is very rare.

If you visit a physician for a spot, mole, blemish or lump that gives you concern, the doctor will likely examine the spot and the rest of your skin, along with asking you questions about 

your symptoms and family history. If something concerning is found, a sample from the spot is removed and sent for testing. This is a painless procedure and will likely be done by either:

  1. Punch biopsy
  2. Excision

Our specialized team at Hoag includes a dedicated dermatologist whose only focus is the diagnosis of melanoma and other skin cancers. The benefits of coming to Hoag include:

  • Shorter waits for exams
  • In-depth knowledge and expertise
  • A chance to avoid the “biopsy first” approach
  • Fewer disfiguring scars and clearer, healthier skin
  • Access to high-risk management, biopsy, Mohs surgery, other surgical approaches and subspecialty medical oncologists. 


If testing shows evidence of melanoma or a non-melanoma skin cancer, it is important to determine whether the cancer has spread, or metastasized, and how extensive it is. This is called staging and may be determined by:

  • Measuring the thickness of the skin cancer, a thicker melanoma means the disease has penetrated further into the skin and is a more serious case.
  • If needed, our surgical oncologist can perform a Sentinel Node Biopsy to see if there’s evidence the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. 

At Hoag, our expert pathologists specialize in skin cancer & melanoma diagnoses ensuring an accurate skin cancer diagnosis. Precision medicine may also be used to ensure a molecular-based diagnosis. Learn about Hoag’s Precision Medicine Program.

Second Opinion Consultations

Melanoma and other skin cancers should be handled by experienced, subspecialists who understand the complexity of the cancer and how to best treat it. For patients unsure about their current treatment pathway, Hoag’s Melanoma & Skin Cancer Program offers second opinion consultations. Contact us today for assistance with a second opinion.

Treatment Options for Skin Cancer

Hoag’s Melanoma & Skin Cancer Program has the most complete and comprehensive skin cancer program in Orange County. Our multidisciplinary team has special expertise in providing the most accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plans across all skin cancer types, including performing Mohs surgery. To help patients and their families through diagnosis and treatment to survivorship, our dedicated melanoma and skin cancer clinical nurse navigator acts as facilitator and guide. Learn about our nurse navigator program.

Treatment options for skin cancer depend on many factors, such as:

  • How advanced the cancer is when detected
  • Your age and any other health issues you may have

Rest assured, Hoag will provide you with world-class expertise and a personalized treatment plan specific to your needs. 

Advanced Surgical Treatment at Hoag

The most common treatment for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers is surgical removal of that piece of tissue, which usually cures most early-stage lesions. When detected early, Hoag is a leader in performing Mohs Surgery, today’s least invasive surgical option for a full recovery from Melanoma and other skin cancers resulting in better outcomes and less scarring.  

If you are not a candidate for Mohs surgery, our surgical oncologist offers expertise in non-Mohs surgical interventions, including:

  • Surgical excision
  • Sentinel node biopsy
  • Lymph node dissection
  • Wide local excision 

Through collaboration with Hoag plastic surgeons, patients are able to optimize their appearance and reduce the visibility of scars when needed.

If Skin Cancer Has Metastasized

At Hoag, treatment plans for metastasized skin cancers are personalized to meet the needs of each patient. Our treatment options offer the most recent advancements in techniques and technology, including: 

Research & Clinical Trials for Skin Cancer

Hoag is committed to leading the way in state-of-the-art technologies and advanced treatment options. Part of this commitment includes clinical research with the goal of helping patients live longer, healthier lives. Through carefully planned clinical trials, researchers evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases or conditions. Treatments studied in clinical trials might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. View clinical trials for melanoma and other skin cancers here.

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