protect yourself from skin cancer

Skin Biopsies

A skin biopsy is a procedure your doctor may order to determine what a spot, rash, or infection is on your skin. If you hear that your doctor has ordered a biopsy for your skin, you might have questions. Let’s look at some of the most frequently asked questions about skin biopsies.  

What is a skin biopsy? 

Skin biopsies are procedures where your provider takes a tiny skin sample to screen for medical problems (usually skin cancer). Doing so can detect cancer early before it spreads to other body parts. Skin biopsies are typically painless.  

Why might I need a skin biopsy? 

Your medical specialist might recommend undergoing a skin biopsy if you have symptoms of skin cancer, such as:

  • New or unusual skin bumps
  • Waxy or pearly bumps
  • Moles that change in color, size, or shape
  • Scabbing or bleeding sores
  • Scar-like lesions
  • Red, firm nodules
  • Crusty or scaly lesions
  • Brown spots with dark specks
  • Moles with irregular borders
  • Itching, burning, or painful lesions
  • Black moles

Any time you notice new or unusual skin changes, it is a good idea to see your doctor for an evaluation. 

What are the risk factors for skin cancer? 

Skin cancer can happen to anyone, but some factors boost your risk of experiencing it. Examples include:

  • Family and/or personal history of skin cancer
  • Unprotected sun exposure
  • Tanning bed exposure
  • History of sunburns
  • Having a lot of moles
  • Having fair skin
  • Weakened immune system
  • Radiation exposure

Ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer include protecting your skin from the sun when you go outdoors with protective clothing or sunscreen. Avoid tanning beds and complete periodic skin checks on yourself and with your team to look for new or unusual lesions. 

Is a skin biopsy right for me? 

To find out if you need a skin biopsy, primary care providers discuss your symptoms and medical history with you. They examine skin lesions and ask you if they’ve changed in color, size, shape, or overall appearance. 

What happens during skin biopsies? 

During skin biopsies, your specialist numbs the treatment area and removes a tiny skin sample using a punch tool or scalpel. They could also remove a lesion with cryotherapy (freezing) or electrocautery (an electric current). If needed, they use sutures to close larger incisions. If you have skin cancer, your doctor may recommend additional treatments to ensure cancer doesn’t spread. They could suggest removing a larger tissue sample, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. 

What kind of skin biopsies are there?

There are two types of skin biopsies your doctor might recommend diagnosing your skin condition. 

Excisional Biopsy

This is a surgical procedure that uses a scalpel to remove a tumor in your skin. Your doctor may also remove some of the healthy tissue around the area for a more thorough examination. 

Incisional Biopsy

In an incisional biopsy, only a portion of the suspicious section of the skin is removed. The removed tissue is then sent to a lab to be examined. 

While biopsies are not very painful, they often leave a small scar around the biopsy site. 

If you notice new or unusual skin changes, it could be a sign of a skin condition. At Greenbrook Medical, our exceptional staff offers skin biopsies to screen for cancer and other conditions requiring treatment. Call the Greenbrook Medical office or request an appointment online today. 

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