Moles are common dark spots that appear anywhere on the body. Most moles develop as small brown or black marks, but they can also form in various colors, shapes, and sizes. While most moles are harmless, others are cancerous and can lead to severe health risks if a dermatologist does not remove them.
At the Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC, located in Morgantown, West Virginia, our dermatologists have 28+ years of medical experience, including diagnosing moles and performing mole removal procedures. Continue reading to learn more about what happens when a patient gets a mole removed.
WHY DOES A PATIENT GET A MOLE REMOVED?
Most moles are harmless, and they do not need removal unless a patient dislikes how they look or feel. For example, if a mole catches on clothing or jewelry, makes shaving difficult, gets easily irritated, or looks unattractive to a patient, they may opt to have a dermatologist remove it.
Moles can also be cancerous. For example, if a mole grows rapidly or looks different than other moles on the skin, it might signify a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Therefore, we recommend performing self-exams at least once a month and speaking with a dermatologist if you have a family history of melanoma or notice a suspicious-looking mole.
Read our related blog, Why are Regular Skin Cancer Checks Important for Healthy Skin? to learn more about the importance of routine skin checks.
HOW ARE CANCEROUS MOLES IDENTIFIED?
For melanoma specifically, the ABCDE method, developed by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), is an effective way to monitor changes in moles:
- Asymmetry: Half of the mole does not match the other half in size, shape, or color.
- Border: The edges of moles are irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined
- Color: The mole is not the same color throughout
- Diameter: The mole is usually higher than six millimeters when diagnosed but may also be smaller.
- Evolving: A mole is different from the rest or changes in size, shape, or color.
However, it is crucial to remember that skin cancer can take many shapes and forms, so the best way to determine if a mole is cancerous is to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.
CAN A MOLE BE REMOVED AT HOME?
You should never try to remove a mole yourself. At-home mole removal is not safe and can cause scarring and infection. Furthermore, you will not be able to tell if the mole is cancerous, and attempting to remove it yourself could cause the cancer cells to spread. Thus, a medical professional, like a dermatologist, should be the only one to remove a mole.
HOW IS A MOLE REMOVED?
Mole removal is a safe procedure that a dermatologist can often perform during a routine office visit. Sometimes, specific scenarios may require a second follow-up visit.
If you are concerned about the possibility of pain, mole removal procedures are virtually painless thanks to local anesthetic (i.e., numbing medication). You should only feel a slight prick from the initial injection.
A dermatologist will likely choose one of the methods below to remove a mole, depending on the mole type.
- Cryosurgery: A small amount of liquid nitrogen is used to freeze a mole, causing it to fall off.
- Cautery: An electrical current is used to safely burn off a mole's upper layers.
- Surgical shaving: A surgical blade is used to shave a mole off the skin's surface. The mole is later viewed under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.
- Surgical excision: The entire mole is cut out from the skin, and a few stitches are used to help with the healing process. This method is used primarily if the mole is cancerous.
Mole removal procedures are permanent. However, if you notice a mole has returned, notify your dermatologist promptly, as it might signify cancer.
WHAT IF A MOLE IS CANCEROUS?
If a mole is cancerous, our dermatologists will use various treatment techniques depending on the type and severity of skin cancer. Treatment options for cancerous moles can include the following:
- Mohs surgery
- Topical creams
- Photodynamic therapy
- Electrodesiccation and Curettage (ED&C)
- Radiation therapy
- Oral medications
You can learn more about the different skin cancer treatment options we provide here.
HOW LONG DOES RECOVERY TAKE AFTER MOLE REMOVAL?
Recovery time significantly depends on the patient's age, type of procedure, and the mole's location, but generally, the site should heal within four to six weeks.
WILL SCARRING OCCUR AFTER A MOLE IS REMOVED?
Even though our dermatologists are highly trained in mole removal and try to avoid scarring as much as possible, scarring can and does occur. But, again, it largely depends on the patient's age, type of procedure, and the mole's location.
Many times, a scar will heal on its own, but there are a few things you can do at home to minimize the risk of scarring, including:
- Care for the initial wound – keeping the area clean, moist, and covered at first is generally recommended, but you should always follow your dermatologist's instructions.
- Gently massage the area once the wound has healed.
- Avoid stretching the scar as much as possible.
- Protect the scar from the sun.
If the scar persists after one year, treatment options like corticosteroid injections and vascular laser therapy can help improve its overall appearance.
GETTING A MOLE REMOVED | DERMATOLOGY CENTER FOR SKIN HEALTH, PLLC
If you are unhappy with a mole or are concerned about its appearance, please contact a member of our staff at Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC. Our expert team of dermatologists can determine if you are a candidate for mole removal and walk you through the different removal options. We are currently accepting new patients, and we look forward to hearing from you soon! Give us a call today at (304) 598-3888.