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Video:What to Expect After a Skin Cancer Biopsy

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A skin cancer biopsy is a useful test for determining whether or not you've got skin cancer. This video from About.com will explain what to expect once you've had a skin cancer biopsy.See Transcript

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Transcript:What to Expect After a Skin Cancer Biopsy

Hello, this is Dr. Poynor, here with About.com. Today we'll see what to expect after a skin cancer biopsy.

What is a Skin Biopsy?

It is a simple procedure during which a small sample of skin is collected for analysis under a microscope. Several methods to obtain a sample are used, depending on the situation and location of the suspicious tissue.

Oftentimes a local anesthetic is used. Sometimes stitches will be required.

Types of Skin Biopsies

A shave biopsy is, as its name indicates, the removal of a sliver of the top layer of skin. Sometimes lesions are removed via this method. Dressing of the wound and pressure will stop the bleeding.

During a punch biopsy, a cylindrical sharp device is used to remove a fragment of tissue just like a cookie-cutter would. In the case of a large sample collected, stitches may be required.

In the case of incisional biopsy, a scalpel is used to remove a portion of the lesion.

Another type of skin biopsy is the excisional biopsy, which removes a larger area as well as some skin cancers. Stitches or even a skin graft may be needed in this situation.

Other less common biopsy techniques include fine-needle aspiration biopsy, and curettage biopsy.

How the Biopsy Works

Biopsies are performed to diagnoses an array of dermatologic issues, including psoriasis, skin cancer and bacterial or fungal infections.

Once the sample is removed, it is bathed in a solution and layers of the sample are placed on microscopic slides for scrutiny. Oftentimes, stains are used to help determine the presence of certain diseases, or antibodies.

Preparing for a Skin Biopsy

Before the biopsy, a full history of allergies and current list of medication should be disclosed to your doctor as the presence of certain substances in the sample could give false results.

In establishing a diagnosis, the doctor will often study the patient's history and life style as factors such as sun-bathing habits or history of smoking could affect the final evaluation.

After the Biopsy

After the procedure, the biopsy site should be kept clean and dry until healing is complete. An appointment will then be taken to remove the stitches if this is needed.

If excessive bleeding, fever, pain, swelling or tenderness persist at the biopsy site after the prognosis of your health care specialist, consult your doctor immediately, as these could be signs of an infection.

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