Excision biopsy (removing a mole)

If you have symptoms of melanoma, your mole will need to be removed so the specialist doctor can find out what it is.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can start in a mole. If you have an abnormal mole your specialist doctor thinks may be a melanoma, they will advise you to have the whole mole removed. This is called an excision biopsy. It is the most important test to diagnose melanoma.

The tissue that is removed is sent to the laboratory. A doctor examines it under a microscope. This is to see if there are any melanoma cells. You will have a scar afterwards. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what to expect.

Before the mole is removed, your doctor will explain what they are going to do. They will ask you to sign a form to give your permission (consent) to have the excision biopsy.

Having a mole removed

You usually lie down to have the mole removed. 

The doctor or specialist nurse injects a local anaesthetic into the area around the mole. This numbs the skin, so you do not feel any pain. 

They cut out the whole mole and a small area of normal-looking skin around it.

They usually close the wound using stitches. These are removed after 5 to 14 days, depending on where the mole was. You can have stitches removed at your GP practice. You may have stitches that dissolve. These do not need to be removed.

Before you go home, the nurse will tell you what to do with the dressings and how to look after the wound. They also explain things to look out for, such as signs of infection or bleeding. If you have any problems, it is important to contact the hospital for advice.

If the biopsy shows you have a melanoma, you usually have another operation to remove more tissue. This is called a wide local excision.

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