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A female asked:

Is a skin biopsy the only way to determine skin cancer? i have a mole on my arm that i am concerned about. i am scared to death that if i go to the dermatologist that he will order a biopsy to be done. are there any other, less invasive ways of determini

5 doctor answers12 doctors weighed in
Dr. Richard Arden
Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery 38 years experience
There : There is no blood test or x-ray study that can make a diagnosis of skin cancer. This is often suggested by historical features and appearance of the lesion. The best way to make a diagnosis is by tissue biopsy, and the decision to do so would be based on suspicious clinical features not arbitrary criteria. I'm sure your dermatologist will do what is in your best interest.
Dr. Travis Kidner
Surgical Oncology 18 years experience
Yes: As the pathologists would say, tissue is the issue. The only way to know is with a skin biopsy. These are relatively small and can be performed with a little local anesthesia.
Dr. Emily Altman
Dermatology 29 years experience
Skin cancer: Skin cancer can be suspected by looking, however, the only way to know for sure is to do a biopsy. There are some benign growths that may be suspicious of skin cancer and vice versa. The most important thing to remember is the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of a complete cure, particularly for melanoma. If diagnosed late, melanoma does not have very good treatments.
Dr. James Davie
Dr. James Davie commented
Pathology 24 years experience
Changes in a mole, especially in size, color, or shape, could be either benign or could indicate a melanoma. Don't hesitate to see a dermatologist and mention your concerns about the mole. It could save your life if it turns out that it is a mole turning into an early melanoma!
May 15, 2014
Dr. Ed Friedlander
Pathology 45 years experience
We are adults: To be brave, act brave. Your dermatologist will either say, "this is benign", or "i should take the whole thing now", or "biopsy." this is the 21st century and you will get biopsies from time to time. They are nothing compared to the other challenges you'll face. Ask your personal physician about sedation before the procedure. Here's a photo of a neglected skin cancer -- don't wait.
Dr. Jeffrey Fromowitz
undefined 20 years experience
a biopsy is easy and straightforward. it takes only a few minutes and is not painful...go see your dermatologist
May 8, 2013
Dr. Ed Friedlander
Pathology 45 years experience
Provided original answer
Dr. Fromowitz is correct. I appreciate the reminder that patients may not realize that it's nearly painless despite looking scary. The local anesthetic will sting, but it's nothing compared with dental work.
May 8, 2013
Dr. Robert Dorsey
37 years experience
Yes: Ask your physician to apply emmla cream to the area and cover it with tegaderm for an hour prior to the biopsy if needed. The emmla cream is an anestheic that will absorb into the skin and make the injection of Lidocaine nearly if not completely pain free.

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