January 11, 2016

| perri dermatology
Medically reviewed by Anthony J. Perri, M.D.
Model in hospital gown | perri dermatology

If you find yourself with a questionable mole, lump, or other growth on your skin, it may be necessary to perform a skin cancer biopsy. Patients often want to know more about the procedure, such as how to prepare, and what it involves, so they can help put their minds at ease. Right off the bat, we can say that a skin cancer biopsy is a relatively simple, quick, and pain-free operation, but let’s dig into the specifics a little deeper.

A Skin Cancer Biopsy: Step by Step

To help ensure that you have a procedure with minimal complications, be sure to let Dr. Perri know if you’ve been diagnosed with or have experienced excessive bleeding after other medical procedures, have a history of skin infections, or are currently taking any blood-thinning or immune system suppressing medications. On the day of your biopsy, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Depending on where the skin to be biopsied is, you may be asked to undress and change into a surgical gown. The area to be biopsied will be cleaned and may be marked with a surgical marker to outline it.
  2. You’ll receive a local anesthetic via a thin needle in the biopsy site. This may cause a burning sensation for a few seconds, but afterwards, you’ll feel no pain or discomfort for the duration of the biopsy.
  3. The procedure changes slightly depending on what type is required. For a shave biopsy, a razor-like tool will be used to remove a small section of the top layers of skin. For a punch biopsy, a circular tool is used to remove a small section of skin and superficial fat. With an excisional biopsy, the entire mass or skin anomaly down through the fat layer will be removed with a scalpel.
  4. After the biopsy sample is taken, the resulting bleeding will be addressed with pressure, topical medication, and if needed, stitches, a dressing or adhesive bandage will be applied to protect the wound.

In total, the procedure usually takes only 15 minutes from preparation to the giving of instructions for home care.

After the Biopsy

It’s best to avoid activities that might bump or stretch the skin at the biopsy site, but bleeding may still occur, particularly if you’re taking blood thinning medications. This can usually be addressed through the application of direct pressure for 10-20 minutes. Healing of the wound can take from several weeks to two months depending on the location, after which time, a small scar will be left. During healing, make sure your hands have been washed before touching the site, wash the site itself with soap and water, rinse well, pat dry with a clean towel and cover with a ventilated adhesive bandage.

After the skin taken in your biopsy has been analyzed, Dr. Perri’s office will go over the results with you. If you have any questions or concerns while you’re waiting, you’re always welcome to call us.

Think you might need a skin cancer biopsy? Dr. Anthony J. Perri performs biopsies quickly with flexible scheduling to accommodate you. Call today for your appointment.