If a suspicious skin spot is found during your skin check a skin biopsy may be recommended rather than booking you straight for excision. This will provide an accurate diagnosis allowing the appropriate treatment options to then be discussed with you.
Skin biopsy involves removal of a part of the skin spot for further microscopic assessment by a pathologist. Skin biopsies are a minor procedure easily performed under local anaesthetic. There are three main biopsy methods- excisional, punch and shave.
If your treating doctor suspects any risk of melanoma they will perform a complete full thickness or shave excision removing the whole spot for assessment rather than take a partial biopsy. This is because we now know that doing a partial biopsy of a melanoma has a worrying 24% chance of giving an incorrect diagnosis. On the other hand partial biopsies of other skin cancers (including SCCs and BCCs) will virtually always give a correct diagnosis.
Punch and smaller shave biopsies can be dressed with a taped down rolled gauze ‘plug’. This can be removed after a few hours and covered with a simple dressing such as a spot band-aid until healed.