How to Undergo a Mole Biopsy
If you have an irregular mole, your doctor may want to biopsy it. Irregular or atypical moles may be pre-cancerous or cancerous. Your doctor may perform a biopsy, which is when they remove a sample of tissue to test and then examine the sample in a lab to determine whether it is benign or malignant. Mole biopsies are conducted in a doctor’s office, and they are relatively quick and painless.
Biopsying the Mole
Get a punch biopsy.A punch biopsy is when the doctor uses a special tool to punch into the skin around the mole. The tool has a circular blade. First, The doctor will numb the skin around the area being biopsied with a needle. Then, they will press the tool to the skin to remove a circular piece of skin to biopsy.
- Punch biopsies are done for smaller moles when the doctor wants to remove the entire mole.
Undergo a skin shave.One way that doctors can biopsy the mole is to surgically shave it to the same flat level as your skin. They will give you an anesthetic in the area and allow the area to go numb. Then, they will take a scalpel to cut the mole away.
- Skin shaves are often used for small moles or freckle-like areas that are flat on the skin.
- Often, the area where the mole is removed will be closed by cauterization, which is when they apply heat to close the wound.
Get a surgical excision.The doctor may decide to perform a surgical excision. This process is when the doctor numbs the skin and then removes the entire mole and the surrounding tissue. Then they stitch the skin closed with one or two small stitches.
- A surgical excision is used for small to medium sized areas, when the doctor wants to remove the entire mole and surrounding tissue.
- You will need to return to your doctor or dermatologist after seven to ten days to have your sutures removed. Your doctor should have the test results by this time.
Undergo an incisional biopsy.During an incisional biopsy, the doctor will numb the area and then only cut off the irregular part of the mole instead of removing the whole thing. Then, they will examine the sample of tissue in a lab.
- An incisional biopsy technique is used when removing the entire mole is difficult, such as when it is too big to remove through other techniques.
Treating the Biopsy Site
Expect minor pain at the site.Depending on the type of biopsy you have, and how large of a section you have biopsied, you may experience some minor pain at the biopsy site. Pain usually occurs on the day of the biopsy and a couple of days afterwards.
- If you have pain, redness, or swelling after a few days, contact your doctor.
Use petroleum jelly on the wound.To help the biopsy site heal, you should keep it moist with ointment. Your doctor will recommend that you use either an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly on the incision site every day. Follow their directions for the amount of times to apply.
- Use small, individual packets of petroleum jelly. These will reduce your chance of infection since bacteria won't be able to get into the packaging.
- Don’t use an antibiotic ointment on the biopsy site unless your doctor tells you to.
Keep the site covered at first.After your biopsy, your doctor will cover the site with gauze or a cotton ball and adhesive strip. For the first few days, you should keep the wound covered. Your doctor will tell you how many days to wait until you can take it off.
- If the dressing falls off, put on a new dressing by putting gauze on the site. Keep it secure with medical tape. Make sure that the wound is dry when you do this.
Avoid getting the biopsy wet.Your doctor may suggest that you don’t get the biopsy site wet for a few days. If this is the doctor’s instructions, you won’t be able to take a shower or bath, unless you can hold the biopsy site out of the bath water. You can also cover the site in plastic wrap or a plastic bag.
- You may also take a sponge bath for a few days.
- If the dressing goes get wet, take it off, and let the wound air dry. Once it is completely dry, you can put on a new dressing with gauze and tape.
Limit the activity of the body part.Though mole biopsies are small, you should still give the area time to start healing. Don’t do any vigorous exercise or physical activity for a few days after the biopsy. Depending on where the biopsy was, you may want to limit activity for around a week.
- For example, if your biopsy was of a large mole or in a place with a lot of movement, such as under the arm or the crease of your legs, you may need to limit your activity for a longer period of time.
- Avoid any activities that stretch or pull at the biopsy site.
Contact the doctor if there are any problems.Most biopsy are quick and easy. Sometimes, there are complications. If the biopsy site starts bleeding, gets infected, or there is numbness around the biopsy site, you should go see your doctor.
- A little blood on your bandage may be normal immediately after the biopsy, but there should be no more bleeding as the biopsy heals. Bleeding may be sign of an infection.
Determining If a Biopsy is Needed
Notice any mole irregularities.Look at your moles carefully. Pay special attention to moles that are dark in color or flat, or to any moles that have changed. If the moles show any changes, it may be a symptom of pre-skin cancer or skin cancer.
- If you have fair skin or have many freckles and moles, visit the dermatologist once a year to have your moles screened.
- Check for changes in the size and color of the mole and study the borders of the mole. The mole may also feel hard and unmovable under the skin. If the borders look irregular and oddly shaped, or both sides of the mole don’t match, go see a dermatologist. The dermatologist may order other tests than just a biopsy.
Go to a dermatologist.Visit your regular doctor or a dermatologist if you think there are any problems with your moles. A dermatologist can figure out if your moles are healthy or cancerous through a physical exam.
- If the moles are concerning, they will do a biopsy.
Make an outpatient appointment in the doctor’s office.Mole biopsies are conducted in the doctor’s office. You don’t have to go to a hospital or outpatient clinic. The process is generally fairly quick. During a mole biopsy, the doctor will surgically remove the mole or part of the mole.
- They will place the mole in a container and examine it in a lab to determine if it is precancerous, cancerous, or benign.
Video: Methods Used To Obtain A Skin Biopsy - Manipal Hospitals
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