BIOPSIES AND EXCISIONS
Once a suspicious mole, freckle or lesion is identified, there are a few different methods the Doctor may use to make a diagnosis.
Sometimes diagnosis can be made through physical examination of the skin, and other times a skin biopsy or skin excision may be needed to allow further investigation.
If the doctor notices any areas of concern, they may take a skin biopsy. There are generally two methods, a shave biopsy or a punch biopsy, these are simple, quick, non-invasive procedures and you can return to work immediately. Both skin biopsy methods involve numbing the affected area with a small amount of anaesthetic and taking a small sample of skin which is sent to a laboratory for further analysis. You will need to keep a dressing on the biopsy area for 24-48 hours after the procedure, but it is generally painless.
Excision refers to removing an entire skin lesion for evaluation using local anaesthetic. The affected area of the skin is larger than that of a biopsy, as an excision is complete removal of the lesion as well as some of the surrounding tissue which is then sent to a laboratory for evaluation. This helps to ensure all of the cancerous growth is removed. Skin Excisions require stitches and take at least 7 days to heal. If the excision is on the chest or legs, 10 days healing time is applicable, and if the excision is on the back area, there is a longer healing time of 14 days. Patients will need to return to see the doctor to discuss the diagnosis and to have stitches removed.
Confirming Diagnosis and Results
Results from your biopsy or excision will be sent back to your doctor usually within a week. The results of many biopsies show no cause for concern. On the other hand, results may take longer if more complex tests are required on your skin sample. If your doctor performed a biopsy and cancer is detected, usually your doctor will want to excise (remove) the affected area as the first step in your skin cancer treatment.
All patients will need to book a follow up appointment to get the results of the biopsy or excision. If cancer is present, your treatment options will be decided based upon the nature of the cancer, your lifestyle, and any existing or previous medical conditions that might be relevant. Having a thorough understanding of your medical history will help determine the most suitable option to treat the cancer swiftly and effectively.