Understanding The Mole Removal And Biopsy Testing Process
Most adults have moles or nevi. In fact, you likely have between 10 and 40 of them on your body. Most moles are no bigger than one-quarter inch, and most of the nevi will appear sometime during childhood. Most moles are harmless and do not need to be removed. However, you should speak with your dermatologist about mole removal if the nevi changes shape or color. Dry skin, textures, lumps, and itchy skin across the surface of the mole may indicate an issue as well. An abnormal looking mole may need a biopsy. Keep reading to understand what will happen and to learn how the mole will be tested.
What Happens During A Mole Removal?
A mole removal can occur in a variety of different ways. The removal is typically called a biopsy, especially if the mole is removed for testing purposes. A punch biopsy is the most common type of mole removal. During the procedure, a tool called a biopsy punch is used. The device has a circular cutting end with a razor edge, and the blade is twisted into the skin over the mole. Biopsy punches come in a wide variety of sizes to match the circumference of the mole. This helps to limit the amount of healthy skin that is damaged during the process. This may be important to you if the mole is on the face or another visible area of the skin.
If the mole on your body is abnormally shaped, your physician will likely use a scalpel to remove it. This is called an excisional biopsy. During the procedure, the medical professional will typically cut outside the mole area and into healthy looking skin to make sure that all abnormal tissue is released. The cut will typically be deep as well. This means that the procedure will probably require stitches, where a punch biopsy may or may not.
Excisional biopsies may be completed to remove only a small portion of the mole in some cases. This may happen if the nevi is large and likely to leave a noticeable scar. Your dermatologist will wait for test results to come back before full excision is completed. Both cancerous and pre-cancerous nevi will need to be removed fully.
A shave biopsy may be completed as well. However, this type of procedure is not common. If your dermatologist feels that the mole is not suspicious looking, then this procedure may be completed as a precautionary measure. A surgical razor will be used to cut the mole away and level it with the skin. Sutures are usually not required for this.
What Happens During Testing?
Once the mole is removed, the tissue will be sent to a laboratory for testing. Testing involves looking at the tissue under a microscope to see if a group of abnormal cancer cells are seen. These cells are called a melanoma tumor. If a tumor is located, then it is measured to see how large it is. Precise measurements need to be taken, because the thickness of the tumor will determine the severity of your skin cancer issue. Larger tumors mean a more serious condition and the possibility that cancerous cells have spread to other areas of the body. For this reason, a tool called a micrometer is used to complete measurements.
The results of the biopsy are sent to your physician. It may take a few weeks for the results to come back. If the biopsy is positive, then a separate biopsy will need to be completed to see if cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes that sit the closest to the removal area will need to be removed and tested. To find out which lymph nodes need to be removed, a dye is injected into the site where the mole was removed. The dye is tracked to the nearest lymph node, the node is removed, and the tissue is sent to the laboratory. The results of this test will indicate if the melanoma has spread and the kind of treatment that will need to be completed to treat the cancer.