Skin Lesion Removal
This is the removal of an abnormal growth on the skin, called a lesion, for medical or cosmetic reasons. Skin lesions can include warts, moles, cancers, and skin tags.
Reasons for Procedure
- Lesion is precancerous or cancerous
- Lesion has created a chronic skin irritation
- Cosmetic preference
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Changes in skin color
- Poor wound healing
- Nerve damage
- Recurrence of the lesion
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Suppressed immune system
- Bleeding disorders
- Circulatory problems
What to Expect
Description of the Procedure
The area will be cleaned. The skin surrounding the lesion will be numbed by anesthesia. Techniques for skin lesion removal vary depending on the reason for removal and lesion location. Common techniques include:
- Removal with scalpel—The lesion is cut away with a surgical knife.
- Laser surgery—A high-energy beam destroys skin tissue.
- Electrosurgery—This is the use of an electrical current to selectively destroy skin tissue.
- Cryosurgery—A cold liquid or instrument is used to freeze and remove the lesion.
- Curettage—This is the scraping of the skin with a circular cutting loop instrument.
- Mohs micrographic surgery—This is used to examine suspected cancerous lesions. Small pieces of tissue are successively removed and then viewed microscopically for signs of cancer. The goal is to get all the cancer tissue and leave as much healthy tissue as possible.
After the lesion is removed, stitches will be used to close the hole left in the skin. Clean stickers may also be used to help keep the skin closed. A bandage will be placed over the area.
How Long Will It Take?
This depends on which procedure is used. Most are completed within 20 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some discomfort at the surgery site after the procedure.
When you get home:
- Keep the area clean and dry. Keep it covered with a sterile bandage for 1-2 days. If stickers were placed, they will fall off on their own in about a week.
- Take pain medication if necessary.
- Follow any special care instructions to prevent infection.
Stitches will be left in the skin for 3-14 days, depending on where they are located.
Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
- New or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Dermatology
Skin Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Diagnostic tests for skin disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic_disorders/approach_to_the_dermatologic_patient/diagnostic_tests_for_skin_disorders.html. Updated September 2013. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 5, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Pickett H. Shave and punch biopsy for skin lesions. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(9):995-1002.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.