Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, according to the CDC. The best way to detect skin cancer is to get a skin biopsy if you have a suspicious spot on your skin. Skin biopsies can also help a doctor or dermatologist diagnose other skin problems as well, but skin cancer is often the largest one.
But what happens during a skin biopsy? How can you prepare?
We’re here to answer those questions and more. Read on to learn all about the various types of skin biopsies.
Shave biopsies are excellent for problems that are clearly visible on the surface of the skin.
First, as we mentioned, the doctor will clean the area and numb it with a local anesthetic to prevent any pain. Then, they will use a special tool to delicately shave off the top layers of the skin, including the abnormal area. That tissue then goes to a laboratory for analysis.
The whole process takes a few minutes and doesn’t require stitches. The doctor will provide you with a bandage. It’s important to follow the doctor’s instructions for aftercare and keep the area clean and protected while it heals.
Note that you may feel some discomfort once your local anesthetic wears off, but for a shave biopsy, that discomfort should be mild.
Many people are afraid of punch biopsies because they look as though they’d be more uncomfortable than shave biopsies. Remember, the doctor will clean and numb the area first, so you don’t have to worry. If you feel any discomfort, please feel free to let the doctor know.
The doctor will use a small, circular tool called a punch to remove a tiny piece of skin, usually just a few millimeters in diameter. Think of it as a hole punch you’d use for paper, but instead of just removing your skin (as a hole punch removes paper circles), the punch holds onto it.
As with the shave biopsy, the sample from the punch biopsy will go to a lab for testing. After the biopsy, the doctor will provide instructions for caring for the site and keeping it clean as it heals. You may or may not require stitches, but if you do, the doctor will take care of that for you.
Excisional biopsies are for people who have large lumps of tissue that require testing. Perhaps there was a cyst or a large mole that the patient wanted removed and tested. An excisional biopsy is perfect for that.
After using a local anesthetic to numb the area, the doctor will make a small incision and remove the entire lump or tissue sample. This tends to be a quick procedure, but it will take more time than a punch or shave biopsy because it requires more precision and care.
The doctor may use stitches to close up the incision before providing the patient with a bandage. The removed tissue, again, goes to the laboratory for analysis.
Preparing for Your Biopsy
So how can you prepare for your skin biopsy in Northern Kentucky?
During your consultation appointment (or referring appointment if another doctor has referred you), make sure to ask any potential questions you may have. Remember that there is no such thing as a stupid question and that the doctor wants you to feel comfortable going into the procedure.
Let the doctor know if you have any allergies or take any medications. This way they can determine if they need to take any special precautions during your biopsy.
Arrive wearing loose and comfortable clothing. Make sure the doctor will be able to access the area of the biopsy and don’t wear anything that will press against your bandage after the procedure is over.
Avoid using any creams, lotions, or oils in the area of the biopsy. You should also make sure you’re clean. The doctor will clean the area, but it never hurts to be extra hygienic.
Arrive to the appointment early so you can fill out any necessary paperwork. Arriving with too little time to spare can also make you feel more anxious and overwhelmed.
Speaking of feeling anxious, if you’re dealing with anxiety about the biopsy, talk to your referring doctor (if you have one). They may be able to offer advice, or in serious cases, offer a short-term prescription for anxiety medication.
Recovering From Your Biopsy
Recovering from a skin biopsy is generally a simple process. The doctor will give you instructions, and if they’re unclear, feel free to ask questions.
The doctor will bandage (and maybe stitch) the biopsy area. They should tell you how long to leave the bandage on and they’ll let you know if you’ll need to get the stitches removed. Some stitches dissolve.
You may feel some pain or discomfort when the anesthetic wears off. This is not a cause for concern. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to soothe and minimize your pain. Follow the recommended dosage instructions for your safety.
The healing time can vary depending on the size and type of biopsy. In most cases, the area will heal within a week or two. Avoid scratching, picking, or rubbing the area to prevent infection and scarring.
If you think you’re seeing signs of infection, contact your doctor so they can evaluate it. You will have a follow-up appointment in the coming weeks, but it’s okay to contact the doctor before that happens if you’re concerned.
Keep the area as clean as possible. Avoid swimming, using scented creams and lotions, and direct sunlight during the healing period to maximize healing.
Is It Time for Your Skin Biopsy?
If you’re preparing for a skin biopsy, don’t worry. They’re safe and quick procedures and your doctor will do everything they can to minimize pain. The biopsy will let you know if you need further care or if you’re healthy, and that makes it worth the temporary discomfort.
If you’re ready for a biopsy in Crestview Hills, we’re here to help. Learn more about skin biopsies at ZG Wellness and book your appointment today.