Everything You Need To Know About Having A Mole Biopsy
Making the choice to have a mole biopsy done can be intimidating and stressful but it is really something that should not be put off. There are a few different types of biopsies to choose from which ultimately depend on the patient, the location of the mole, the mole's size and the patient's medical and family history.
The first step is to evaluate if the mole is atypical. Some patients choose to have a mole biopsy done for comfort or cosmetic purposes while others believe it may be a suspicious growth. Quite often, most people have no idea if their mole is even dangerous or not before they go in for their evaluation, they have already decided that they just want it gone.
Most medical insurance providers will cover up to two atypical mole instances and anything after that will be dependent on a thorough evaluation of the patient's history. Therefore, it is usually necessary to find out if the mole is atypical, which needs to be done by a physician.
The next step is to decide which type of mole biopsy is the best option. Typically, it is removed in an outpatient procedure. Before it is removed, the area is thoroughly cleaned. Then, an anesthetic is used to numb the area. Depending on the procedure, stitches may be used.
- Stitches – During this procedure, the mole is cut along with some surrounding skin with a scalpel. The stitches are either placed on the upper surface or deep into the skin, depending on how deep the incision is.
- No Stitches – In this type of mole biopsy, the surgeon uses a scalpel to shave down the mole until it is skin level. Then, an electrical instrument is used to cauterize the area and eliminate bleeding. To reduce any risk of infection, topical antibiotics are applied. Although this procedure is a popular choice, skin cells are left behind so the mole can grow back.
Depending on the mole, the procedure generally takes under an hour from start to finish.
Choosing Your Doctor
In most cases, one single physician is all that is needed for a mole biopsy. However, there are cases as such with melanoma that an entire medical team may need to be involved. This is taken quite seriously to make sure that the cancer is not able to continue to spread after the procedure.
A dermoscopy test is traditionally ordered prior to a biopsy being performed. This is to determine if the mole is atypical or not. The test is painless and quite simple and involves the physician using a device that resembles a magnifying glass. Quite often, doctors can tell if a mole is dangerous by using this test and will eliminate the need for a complete biopsy unless it is being removed for cosmetic purposes.
The mole and surrounding skin will often need to go to the lab for additional testing. If anything appears to be unusual, additional surgery may be necessary. This could include a wide local excision being performed which cuts away more and more skin until the results come back free of cancer. In excessive situations, a skin graft may be necessary from another area of the body to cover up the wound.
What To Expect After
The discomfort level after a mole biopsy varies from one person to another. It depends on the patient and the depth and size of the incision. If there is little discomfort, it is typically relieved with pain medication. Shortly after, a scab will develop that will heal within two weeks. There may also be the presence of redness that should go away within three to four weeks. Scars are usually minimal and fade with time.
There are very few risks involved but the occasional infection does occur. If scarring is a concern, they can be later eliminated by using scar revision procedures such as skin resurfacing.