What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is medical test that is performed by a surgeon (sometimes an interventional cardiologist or radiologist) to extract a sample of cells or tissues for examination. The examination is done to check for the presence or extent of a disease. At Dermatology & Skin Health in Dover, Newington & Londonderry, NH and Peabody, MA, we perform skin biopsies to check for cancer, actinic keratosis, dermatitis, psoriasis, warts, moles and other skin conditions.

A skin biopsy removes cells or a sample of skin from the surface of the body. The sample is then examined to provide more information about your medical condition. With biopsies, we can diagnose or rule out certain skin cancers and diseases. There are three types of biopsies: shave, punch and excisional. These types primarily differ by the tool that is used and the amount of sample that is taken. With a shave biopsy, a tool similar to a razor is used to remove a small section of skin. With a punch biopsy, a circular tool is used to remove a small section of skin, including the epidermis, dermis and superficial fat. You can learn more about about excisional biopsies here.

Why are biopsies performed?

With a biopsy, the dermatologists at Dermatology & Skin Health can diagnose or rule out skin cancers, such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. But we can also use this procedure to remove skin lesions. Before your biopsy is performed, it is important to tell your doctor if you have been diagnosed with a bleeding disorder, if you have a history of skin infections, or if you are taking medications that either suppress your immune system or cause blood thinning.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Your experience will depend on the type of biopsy you receive. For shave biopsies, your doctor will use a sharp, double-edged razor or scalpel to cut the tissue. The depth of the incision will vary, depending on the part of the body that is being targeted. The procedure does cause bleeding, which will be stopped by the application of pressure. A topical cream will then applied to the site of the cut.

For punch or excisional biopsies, the procedure involves cutting into the top layer of fat beneath the skin. Stitches may be needed to close the wound and dressing or an adhesive bandage is then used to protect your wound and prevent bleeding. You can learn more about post-care here: excision & punch or shave.

When can I expect the results?

After your procedure, we will send the sample to a lab for testing. The results can take several days or a couple of weeks, depending on the skin condition, type of biopsy and lab procedures. We will schedule a follow-up with you to discuss the test results. Please don’t hesitate to raise any questions or concerns that you have you during your appointments. We want to be as helpful and transparent as possible. If treatments are needed, they can be performed by members of our staff.

Schedule a consultation in Seacoast, NH or North Shore, MA

If you live in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire or the North Shore of Massachusetts, we encourage you to schedule a consultation at your nearest Dermatology & Skin Health location. From our offices in Dover, Newington, Peabody and Londonderry, we can perform a skin check to determine if a biopsy is needed. To set up a consultation, please fill out our consultation request form, or call us at (603) 742-5556 (Dover & Newington), (978) 525-0100 (Peabody), (603) 965-3551 (Londonderry), (603) 742-5556 (Bedford).

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