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Mole Removal Procedure Options

Moles, or nevi, are commonly known as dark spots or irregularity in the skin. Some people are born with moles, and others appear over time. They are usually benign (non-cancerous) but some moles prove to be a melanoma, or skin cancer when a biopsy is done. It is best to get medical advice if your mole changes shape or size, is irregularly shaped, asymmetrical, protrudes, itches, becomes painful or bleeds.

Moles are generally formed in young adults to adults 40 years of age. Moles can be removed for a variety of reasons, including improving appearance, to reduce discomfort from a mole rubbing against clothing or having been shaved over, for example on a manís face or a womanís leg. There are more serious reasons why a mole needs to be removed, for example if melanoma or skin cancer is suspected. Some melanomas begin in the form of a mole. If caught early, the melanoma may be removed completely, thereby reducing the risk of further skin cancer.

There are a number of methods used to remove moles, and they include:

An excision with stitches: The mole is cut out to its full depth and then the wound is sutured. This procedure is common for irregular moles that are suspected to be cancerous and moles that are flat and flush with the skin surface. The mole is then sent to a laboratory for a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous or benign.

An excision with cauterization: The mole is burned away using a cautery tool. Stitches are not required for this procedure as the wound is burn-sutured, and will heal naturally.

A laser surgery procedure: The mole is eliminated using a laser. Because the laser procedure seals blood vessels and eliminates the tissue they remove by evaporation, there is no need for sutures or cutting. In some cases, the scar tissue may be less and less visible by utilizing this method.

A shave biopsy may be used for moles that protrude above the skin surface. Once the area is numbed with anesthetic, a scalpel removes the portion of the mole that is above skin at skin level. Usually, a flat, white mark is left in place of the mole, however in some cases the flat mark may remain the same color as the mole was.

In all procedures, the scarring is usually minimal, depending on the time of removal surgery used. Ranging from a small, white line if sutures were used to a white oval where the mole once was, you can minimize the scar darkening by using sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or more.

Moles do not usually re-grow once they are removed. However, whenever a mole is removed there are some mole cells left remaining in the skin. Sometimes, the cells will grow a new mole which is usually darker than the original mole.

In some cases, a mole biopsy will be taken prior to the removal of a mole. This procedure is usually done with a small cookie cutter-like instrument that punches out a piece of the mole to be sent to a laboratory for biopsy. The biopsy may also be done with a scalpel or scissors to remove a small portion of the mole.

The procedures for removing moles usually take less than an hour. They can be done as an in-office visit or in a doctorís surgical suite depending on the type of removal and other circumstances. Most often, the patient only requires local anesthetic to have the mole removed. In some cases, light to heavy sedation is also required to help the patient relax. If the mole is suspected to take a long time to remove, or if it may be difficult to remove, the patient is then put under general anesthetic (put to sleep). Most often, anesthetic is not required during laser treatments as there is usually no pain involved. A patient using laser surgery can expect to feel only a mild tingling sensation during the procedure.

There should be very little or no pain during any of the procedures themselves. After local anesthetic has worn off, the area may be tender and red. After the procedures not involving sutures, a scab will form on the surface where the mole was and should fall off in one to two weeks. The redness around the area should disappear within four weeks.

After any of the procedures, the area may be covered with a bandage. Patients should avoid getting the area wet or moist to lessen the threat of infection, delayed healing or other possible complications.

The risk of having a mole removed is minimal. As stated before, with the shaving method, there is a less than 10 percent chance the mole will re-grow within a few years. Some scarring is common, but can be reduced by caring for the area. Scarring will occur and is dependant upon the type of procedure used and the size and shape of the original mole. Scarring can be reduced by keeping the area out of the sun, using SPF 15 or higher or by skin-resurfacing cosmetic procedures.

Article by Stephanie Hancock.

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