blog suspicious moles

Regularly checking your skin for potential signs of skin cancer is an important habit to help you stay on top of your skin’s health and catch any early warning signs as soon as possible. If you are performing a self skin check and happen to notice a mole that looks suspicious, don’t panic. Work with your dermatologist to first determine if the mole is benign or a sign of skin cancer. In either case, your dermatologist will guide you through every step along the way. 

This process can be a bit overwhelming or even scary if you’ve never found a suspicious mole before. Here, we take you through each step from diagnosis to recovery to help you prepare for your upcoming appointment.

Make an Appointment with Your Dermatologist

The first step is to call your dermatologist’s office and make an appointment for an in-person examination of the mole. Upon further inspection, your dermatologist will be able to tell you if any further actions are necessary or if the mole is nothing to worry about. If you are already an established patient, you should be able to schedule this appointment fairly quickly. 

If you do not already have a dermatologist, you may have to do a quick search to find one in your area. Here are a few tips for choosing a dermatologist to examine a suspicious-looking mole:

  • Verify medical credentials. An easy way to check for board certification is to check for the letters “FAAD” after the physician’s name. This means that he or she is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and is board certified. 
  • Filter by experience. Choose a dermatologist with ample experience diagnosing and treating skin cancer. Dr. Brian Feinstein, for example, is a skin cancer expert and specializes in Mohs micrographic surgery, having performed over 10,000 Mohs cases.
  • Consider convenience and availability. Getting your mole checked sooner than later is ideal, so be sure your dermatologist can see you within a relatively short amount of time. If you’ll end up on a long waitlist, you may want to continue your search to get a sooner appointment.

What to Expect at Your Appointment

During your appointment to have a mole looked at, your dermatologist will examine the mole and determine whether or not any further action is needed. In some cases, your dermatologist may be able to tell right away if the mole is benign. In others, a skin biopsy may be performed. This involves the removal of a sample of the mole so that it can be analyzed and tested for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells. 

There are several types of skin biopsies: 

  • A shave biopsy uses a small razor or scalpel to scrape off a small sample of the top layer of skin. 
  • A punch biopsy uses a special tool that removes a circular sample of deeper layers of skin.
  • An excisional biopsy uses a scalpel to remove the entire skin lesion. 

Skin biopsies are performed in-office on an outpatient basis and only take about 15 minutes to complete. Stitches will be placed if necessary, and the wound will be covered with a bandage. You can return home and resume normal daily activities after your skin biopsy while you await the laboratory results.

What to Expect after your Appointment

It can take around 7 to 10 days to get your skin biopsy results back. Your dermatologist’s office will call you with those results. If your biopsy comes back as normal, that means that no cancerous cells were found and there is no further action needed. 

If your biopsy results come back as abnormal, your dermatologist will explain your exact diagnosis and the recommended treatment option based on the type of abnormal cells that were found.

Skin Cancer Treatment Options

The best skin cancer treatment for you will depend on the type of precancerous or cancerous lesion detected, its severity, and location. The majority of skin cancers that are caught early are treated via surgery. The most common types of surgical skin cancer treatment methods include:

  • Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the affected tissue. This method can be used on its own or in conjunction with other skin cancer treatment options. 
  • Excision removes the entire lesion, as well as some healthy surrounding tissue.
  • Curettage and electrodessication first scrapes away the cancerous tissue, then uses controlled electric current to destroy any remaining cancerous cells. 
  • Mohs micrographic surgery scrapes away a thin layer of skin at a time, checking each layer under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells. This minimizes the amount of tissue removed. If needed, Mohs reconstruction can be performed after Mohs surgery to address any cosmetic concerns.

What to Expect after Skin Cancer Removal

Exact instructions after skin cancer removal surgery will depend on the method(s) used. However, you will be provided with detailed aftercare guidelines to ensure the wound stays clean as it heals. It is crucial that you stay out of the sun while your skin heals and remember to always practice good sun safety habits

Bottom Line

Finding a suspicious-looking mole can be scary. The skin cancer experts at Feinstein Dermatology in South Florida are here to help you through every step of the process, from diagnosis to recovery. The first step is to have our skin cancer experts take a look at the mole and perform a biopsy if needed. In some cases, a suspicious mole may be nothing to worry about. Even if biopsy results come back abnormal, however, we are here to help explain your treatment options, answer any and all of your questions, and walk you through the entire process. 

Whether you have found a concerning mole or simply wish to stay on top of your skin’s health by scheduling regular skin cancer screenings, you are in great hands with our team of skin cancer experts. Easily request an appointment online or call our Delray Beach office at 561-692-6421  to schedule your consultation today.