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How to Calm Biopsy Anxiety

February 10, 2021 by VitalSkin Dermatology

female dermatologist studing a biopsy

You or your doctor has spotted something on your skin that is of concern and, after a physical examination, your doctor has determined that a biopsy is necessary. At this point, it is only natural to feel some anxiety around your upcoming procedure.

One of the best ways to ease your stress around a biopsy is to know the facts. Let’s discuss some of the specifics around biopsies so that you know what to expect and when to expect it.

What Is a Biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure whereby your dermatologist removes a skin lesion. This is done to remove the affected area but also to provide samples for testing in a laboratory. Examination of your skin sample in a lab setting will allow a doctor to determine whether or not your skin lesion is some form of skin cancer.

Is a Biopsy Necessary?

Yes, a biopsy is necessary when a physical examination does not rule out cancer. A biopsy is the only way to determine the nature of the affected skin cells. When cancer is suspected, a biopsy can confirm or rule out the presence of cancer cells in the skin sample.

What Kinds of Skin Biopsies Are There?

There are three main types of skin biopsies. Which one your doctor uses will depend on the nature and location of your lesion. The three types of biopsies are: 

  1. Shave biopsies involve the excision of a small layer of skin from the top of the lesion.
  2. Punch biopsies involve a circular tool and remove top and deeper layers of the lesion.
  3. Excisional biopsies involve removal by scalpel of an entire lesion and some portion of normal skin around the lesion.

Is Mohs Surgery a Biopsy?

Mohs surgery is a surgical intervention that involves the removal of layer after layer of a lesion. Each layer is examined by the doctor during the procedure to confirm the presence of cancer cells. Once a layer is reached that is free of cancer cells, the procedure is complete. Mohs is, therefore, both a diagnostic process and a form of treatment, but it is only done after a biopsy has confirmed the presence of skin cancer.

How Long Does a Biopsy Take?

A biopsy is a relatively quick procedure and is typically done on an outpatient basis at your dermatologist’s office.

How Long Do I Have to Wait for My Results?

The time it takes to receive biopsy results can vary, but generally speaking it can take anywhere from several days to several weeks. Your doctor will discuss specifics with you before and after your procedure to help you manage expectations.

How Do I Take Care of My Biopsy Site?

After your biopsy, you will want to be careful not to bump or stretch the skin at the site of the biopsy. You may need to clean your wound site after your procedure. This is typically a simple process that involves soap and water. Keeping the area clean is the best way to prevent infection and speed up the healing process. Your doctor will review all necessary post-biopsy procedures with you.

Once your results arrive, your doctor will contact you to discuss the specifics. Preparing a list of questions to ask your doctor during this stage of the process can help ease your anxiety and ensure that you have all the information you need moving forward.

A biopsy can cause some stress, but there are steps you can take to minimize anxiety. Information is key. If you would like to know more about the biopsy procedure or if you believe you have a lesion that may require a biopsy, contact your dermatologist today to discuss.

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