Having a skin biopsy might sound kind of scary. But actually, it’s a simple, straightforward test that takes just a few minutes to perform.
As leading dermatology practice with offices in Mesa, Sun City, Casa Grande, Gold Canyon, and Chandler, Arizona, A to Z Dermatology uses state-of-the-art methods for skin biopsies, taking tiny samples of tissue that can be used for further evaluation. Here’s when our team recommends skin biopsies and what you can expect if you need one.
When most people think of skin biopsies, they think of skin cancer. That’s because biopsies do, indeed, play a big role in diagnosing skin cancer and managing its treatment. Nearly 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Biopsies help “catch” cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.
But even though skin biopsies are essential in skin cancer treatment, that’s not their only use. Our dermatologists use biopsies for other skin problems, too, including:
In fact, while a visual exam of your skin can provide a lot of information, a skin biopsy is one of the best ways to find out what’s causing your symptoms on a cellular level.
That’s because once your biopsy is performed, that tiny sample of tissue is closely examined under a microscope. The results of your biopsy evaluation will help guide your therapy, including determining what type of medicine you need or if you need other types of treatment, like surgery to remove a cancerous lesion.
Skin biopsies take just a few minutes to perform. Just before your biopsy, your skin is carefully cleansed, then a local anesthetic is injected. The anesthetic numbs your skin so you won’t feel anything when we take the tiny sample of tissue.
The actual biopsy technique depends on the type of biopsy you’re having: shave biopsy, punch biopsy, or excisional biopsy. You can see video examples of skin biopsies on our website.
In a shave biopsy, a special blade is used to remove just the uppermost layers of your skin for evaluation. Shave biopsies are often the first type of skin test a doctor uses to evaluate any unusual lesion for possible skin cancer. This type of biopsy is also used for rashes or other skin changes that mostly affect those upper layers.
A punch biopsy sounds a little aggressive, but the name actually comes from the tool that’s used to extract the skin sample. This tool has a round end that takes a deeper tissue sample comprising multiple skin layers.
Excisional biopsies use a small scalpel to remove a skin lesion that’s suspected of skin cancer — specifically, melanoma. Excisional biopsies may take more tissue than the other methods, and you might need a suture or two to close the wound.
Regardless of the type of biopsy you have, afterward, your doctor applies a dressing, sometimes along with a topical product to aid in healing. You’ll also be given instructions on how to care for the site and when to change the dressing.
Certainly, if you notice any unusual changes in your skin — like a new lesion, a change in an existing mole, an infection, or a persistent rash — it’s very important to call the office right away to schedule an evaluation. But even if you don’t notice any change, you still need an annual exam to make sure your skin stays healthy.
Our team has extensive experience in skin exams — not just for skin cancer, but for other concerns, too. To schedule your exam, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at A to Z Dermatology today.