What You Need to Know about a Mole Biopsy
While moles are common and often benign, we also know they can place patients at a higher risk for melanoma. So, what if you notice an odd or irregularly shaped mole? Should you be worried? Our doctors at The Landings Surgical Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, are happy to assess your skin and can perform a mole biopsy when necessary. Even if the mole is not malignant, many of our patients opt for mole removal to smooth and refine the skin.
What is Involved in a Mole Biopsy?
During your initial consultation, we will visually examine the mole. In some cases, it may be quite apparent the area contains a healthy mole and nothing more. In other instances, it can be difficult to determine whether the mole is malignant. If there is any question whatsoever, we recommend a mole biopsy. This simple procedure involves removing all or part of the tissue and sending it to a pathology lab for further testing and diagnosis. The exact type of biopsy necessary will depend on the size of the mole, and your specific situation. Typically, we receive the results from the lab within one week.
When is a Mole Biopsy Recommended?
There are a few varying indicators that may suggest the mole is cancerous. For example, skin cancer is suspected if your mole:
- Is asymmetrical
- Has suddenly changed in appearance
- Varies in color
- Has an irregular border
- Is growing larger
In addition, if you notice a new lesion that is growing quickly, changing, or bleeding, it can be a cause for concern. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor immediately.
What if My Mole is Actually a Melanoma?
If the results of your biopsy come back positive, we will most likely refer you to an oncologist who can further assess your medical needs. During this testing, he or she will perform a visual examination and will palpate the lymph nodes to feel for any abnormalities. This is because melanoma often begins to spread to the closest lymph nodes. If your doctor suspects the cancer has spread, he or she may order a lymph node biopsy. Once all testing is complete, your doctor will determine the stage of your melanoma. Stages include:
- Stage Zero: Melanoma is localized to the outer layers of the skin.
- Stage One: Melanoma is in the outer layer plus part of the dermis underneath.
- Stage Two: Melanoma spreads to the lower layers of the dermis.
- Stage Three: Cancer cells have spread to the closest lymph nodes.
- Stage Four: Cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes and one or more parts of the body.
Prevention is Key
The good news is: Melanoma is quite treatable when diagnosed early. In fact, when identified and treated in the early stages, the five-year survival rate for patients with melanoma is 99 percent.
It is a good idea to practice prevention even if you have not been diagnosed with melanoma. For example, you should apply sunscreen daily. Doing so lowers your risk for skin cancer by half. Those who report having five or more sunburns are statistically twice as likely to develop some type of skin cancer.
Contact Us to Learn More
If you have a suspicious-looking mole, or even if you have one you simply want to get rid of, contact our practice today. Our doctors can remove the area of concern and perform a mole biopsy to make sure the skin is not malignant.