Hello, my name is Gregory. When I was a young lad, I had to enter the health care world in an unexpected way. I developed a serious disease out of the blue that took doctors by surprise. I went through so many different testing procedures before my doctors could diagnose the rare disease. Everyone around me reeled as they tried to understand the purpose and process of the diagnostic tests. I hope to help others understand these important tests better through this website. Please come by often to learn all you need to know about medical diagnostics and working closely with health care professionals.
If your doctor finds a suspicious skin lesion, their next step will be to do a biopsy and send the sample in for testing. In many cases, removal of the lesion is enough to cure you of mild forms of skin cancer.
A shave biopsy is a quick way of removing a lesion that is not large and relatively flat on the skin. The tool used for a shave biopsy looks like a flexible blade. Once the area on your skin is anesthetized, the flexible blade is placed parallel to the skin, and the doctor uses a slight side-to-side motion to shave the lesion away from the surrounding skin. Any bleeding is typically easy to control with pressure until the skin clots. The sample can be placed in a container or on a slide and sent to the lab for testing. Small areas of cancer may be completely removed with a shave biopsy and require no additional treatment.
Curettage is more likely to be used after an area is determined to be cancerous but the remaining lesion is small and can be easily removed in-office. A curette is a small instrument that resembles an ice cream scoop, but it has sharp edges that allow the doctor to scrape the cancerous cells away from normal cells. In some cases, electrocautery is used in conjunction with curettage to better differentiate between cancerous and normal cells. When the area is cauterized then scraped with the curette, the cancerous cells easily scrape away and separate from surrounding, healthy tissue. Since the two types of cells behave differently with electrocautery, it is easier for the doctor to determine if they have scraped away all of the cancerous cells. Once the cancerous cells have been removed, the area may receive additional electrocautery to stop bleeding.
A suspicious area can be removed with a traditional incision or a punch biopsy, depending on the size and location of the lesion. Punch biopsies are used if the area is small enough and it might be too deep to be removed with a shave biopsy. A punch biopsy is accomplished by essentially punching a hole in the skin. The hole left in the skin will eventually heal by filling in with new tissue, or the doctor might use sutures to help with healing. Excisions with a scalpel are generally used for larger lesions or for those where the doctor wants more control over the way the incision will heal. The doctor can create an incision that forms an ellipse so the lesion is removed and it is easier to close the incision with minimal scarring.
Some types of skin cancer can be cured simply by removing them in-office. In many cases, the biopsy or skin cancer surgery is relatively straightforward and causes minimal damage or scars.