Why get a Mole Removal?
Mole removal can be a cosmetic procedure, but it is often an important step in detecting skin cancer. Skin lesions are by far the most common type of cancer in the United States. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas rarely spread and removing the mole usually eradicates the cancer completely. In contrast, deadly melanoma does metastasize into other areas of the body. However, the survival rate with early excision (before the lesion penetrates beyond the skin) is almost 100 percent.
Who Is a Candidate for Mole Removal?
Patients who have a suspicious mole are prime candidates for this procedure – especially if they have a family history of skin cancer. The “ABCDE” criteria are often used to help determine whether a mole should be removed and biopsied.
Asymmetry: When an image of a normal mole is folded in half, both sides match up. A potentially cancerous lesion is usually asymmetrical.
Border: A suspicious mole may have indistinct, scalloped or irregular edges.
Color: Normal moles can come in a variety of colors, but they should be the same color all the way across. A mole that features more than one color or that changes color is suspicious.
Diameter: A mole that is larger in diameter than a pencil eraser might be melanoma. Moles that get bigger over time are suspicious.
Elevation: A mole that has a raised surface (especially a rough or bumpy surface) is suspicious.
Patients who have a mole that is simply unsightly are also candidates for mole removal. However, is important to understand that the procedure leaves a small scar. If the mole is on the face or other highly visible area, the scar may be noticeable. However, the scar usually fades over time to more closely match the surrounding skin.
How Does Mole Removal Work?
If the mole will be inspected for signs of cancer, it is removed via excision to preserve the tissue sample. The surgeon cleans and numbs the area before using a scalpel to carefully remove the mole. If the abnormal tissue seems to penetrate into the deeper layers of skin, the excision may be more extensive. Melanoma excision (Mohs surgery) may be done in several stages to ensure the margins of the mole are completely removed. Depending on the size of the mole, the incision may or may not require stitches.
Small moles that are not suspicious may be removed via cauterization (burning with an electrical current) or cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen). Stitches are not required after these mole removal methods, only a bandage. However, they may cause a burning sensation during removal and a blister may form afterward.
What to Expect after Mole Removal
Recovery is usually free of complications if the area is kept clean as directed. Post-procedure pain is typically minimal and the area may not hurt at all. However, there can be some soreness if the mole was removed from an area that is highly mobile or where there are a lot of nerve endings. Over the counter pain medication is usually sufficient to manage any discomfort. A small straight scar is left after healing of an excision and a small round scar after cauterization or cryotherapy.