Nearly everyone has moles. Most people, in fact, have anywhere from 10-40 moles. While most moles are common and harmless, others may need to be removed. If, for example, a mole is found to be cancerous, it will need to be removed. Moles that detract from your appearance, affect shaving, or present daily issues may also need removing. Radiant Skin Dermatology and Laser in New York, New York, can handle your mole removal simply and quickly.
What Is a Mole?
A mole is a cluster of skin cells. While most moles are brown or black, they can be tan, red, blue, or pink. Usually, they are round or oval, and they can be flat or somewhat raised. Their texture can appear either smooth or wrinkled. Moles, also called nevi, can appear anywhere on the skin. They can even be found on such areas as the scalp, armpits, under nails, and between fingers and toes.
Most moles appear before we are 20 years old, and most are benign. Some moles may fade over time or even change. Hormonal changes such as adolescence or pregnancy may contribute to these alterations; however, because changes may also indicate melanoma, it is important to bring any changes or new mole growth to our attention. An annual appointment is always a good idea in order to make sure that your skin is free from any issues.
Why You Might Want a Mole Removed
Sometimes moles simply get in the way of day-to-day activities or your appearance. If a mole presents a problem when shaving or rubs against you when wearing jewelry, you may find mole removal an attractive option. Similarly, if you find that a prominent mole on an area such as your face detracts from your looks, you may also want to consider having that mole removed.
Typically, dermatologists consider the ABCDE’s of moles when advising patients to have moles removed for non-cosmetic reasons. Asymmetrical shape (A) occurs when one-half of the mole is not shaped like the other. Irregular, scalloped, or notched borders (B) may also indicate melanoma.
We also look for color (C) changes or tone that is multi-colored or uneven and examine the diameter (D) of the mole for new growth or a mole of over 6 mm. Finally, any evolution (E) or change in a mole, such as itching, bleeding, size, shape, or color can raise suspicion.
At your consultation, we will begin by asking a series of questions regarding your mole. We may inquire about when you first noticed the mole, whether you have always had it, or whether it is new. We will want to know if you have noticed any changes in the mole or have had any other moles removed previously. Family history is always important, just as your history with sun exposure, sunburns, and tanning beds can be significant.
If we determine that a mole has characteristics that may indicate melanoma, we may decide to biopsy the mole, which means removing a small piece of tissue and sending it to the lab to determine if it is cancerous. If the results are positive, we will obviously want to remove the mole. In other cases, we may remove the mole first and test it later. Finally, if mole removal is indicated for cosmetic reasons, we will proceed from there.
When you arrive for your appointment, it can also be helpful if you bring a list of any medications you are taking and any previous biopsy reports you may have received. If you are considering having a mole on your face removed, you may want to refrain from wearing makeup. Finally, make sure you bring a list of any questions you may have.
Once we have determined that mole removal is the best way to proceed, we will schedule your appointment. The good news is that there is no downtime from this treatment, and depending upon the size and type of mole, the entire process should take less than an hour. There are several different types of procedures that can be used to remove a mole.
Regardless of the type you have, there are some commonalities with all mole removals. First, during a skin exam, your mole will have been measured, mapped, and photographed. Next, the mole and the surrounding skin will be sterilized, and we will then numb the area with local anesthesia. It may take a few minutes (sometimes up to 10) for the anesthesia to completely take effect.
Punch excision is typically used for flat moles. Here, a sharp, cylindrical tool removes a small plug of tissue including the mole. If the size of the mole is 1 mm or less, the wound will usually heal on its own. If the mole is 2 mm or more in size, we may stitch the wound up.
With this procedure, moles that are raised and light in color may be removed by shaving. Using a razor or scalpel, we will remove the outermost layers of the mole. The depth of the shave depends largely on the reason for the removal and the location of the mole. Although there is a 50% chance of the mole returning over some years, the process can be repeated. No stitches are usually required here: a simple bandage should suffice.
We may opt to perform a surgical excision if the mole appears dark, bumpy, or potentially cancerous. Using a scalpel, we will cut the mole and some of the surrounding tissue into an oval shape. After the mole has been removed, we will then stitch the skin back together. For a variety of reasons, surgical excision is the type of mole removal surgery that is most often used.
Another type of surgical excision, Mohs surgery is used in cases of cancerous moles. With this procedure, once the mole has been removed, it is immediately biopsied to ensure that all of the cancerous cells have been removed. If the margins are clear, meaning melanoma is no longer present, then the procedure is over. If it is determined that the margins are not yet clear, we can quickly excise more of the tissue to ensure that the area is cancer-free.
Although procedure instructions for aftercare at home may differ depending on what type of removal you have had, there are some basic steps that you should follow. Most patients will leave with a bandage covering the mole. Usually, you will want to avoid getting the area wet, which sometimes means not showering for 48 hours or so. Again, depending on the location of the mole, you may need to refrain from exercise for several days.
As far as keeping the site sterile, you will need to clean your wound at least twice a day with either water or diluted hydrogen peroxide. Once the area has dried, you will apply a thin coat of petrolatum before reapplying the bandage. Of course, protecting the area from sunlight is critical. Finally, if you received stitches, they can be removed in about five to seven days following the procedure.
What to Expect Afterwards
Unless you need to return to our office to have stitches removed, there is little to be done after your mole has been removed. Although you will want to report anything unusual to us, in most cases you will simply perform your aftercare procedure for the required time period. Once the mole is gone, the area will continue to heal. It may take a few weeks to a few months in order for the area to look its best.
Benefits of Mole Removal
Because we can usually remove a mole in minutes and complete the entire procedure in under an hour, having a mole removed can be extremely beneficial. Simply by undergoing this quick procedure, you may find that a pesky skin condition has disappeared, leaving you free to shave, wear clothing or jewelry that no longer gets in the way, and present your best possible appearance.
Furthermore, if you had a mole removed because it was cancerous or potentially cancerous, this procedure could be life-saving. Not only has the mole itself been removed, but the potential for cancer to spread been eliminated. Finally, no matter what the reason for the procedure, there is no downtime following this process, which makes the entire procedure quite simple yet effective.
Protection From Moles
In order to protect your skin from moles or protect your moles from changing, we recommend several best practices. One of the best ways to ensure that your skin is healthy is with an annual skin exam at our offices. Only a trained dermatologist can make an informed decision about any moles you may have noticed. Moreover, with a yearly exam, we can monitor your skin for any changes over time.
In addition, since the sun is the primary cause of many moles’ development, avoiding or minimizing your exposure to the sun is critical. Wearing sunglasses, a hat, and long sleeves are recommended. Some clothing is even manufactured to help block the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.
Because the sun’s rays are most harmful from about 10 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon, you should avoid being outside in the sun at those times. If this is not possible, or for other times, always apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outdoors, even when it is cloudy. Make sure that your sunscreen contains an SPF of 15 or more, and be sure to reapply regularly. Of course, we also discourage tanning salons and sunlamps.
Simple Steps to a Better Quality of Life
Even with these best practices, however, it may not be possible to entirely prevent moles from forming or evolving. Since most of us have had a number of moles on our skin for decades, it is possible that we may need to have a mole removed at some point. Whether the mole is being removed for cosmetic reasons, to improve the overall quality of life, or because it is cancerous, mole removal has become a quick and efficient procedure.
Once we have determined that it is in your best interest to have a mole removed, we can schedule your appointment for a convenient time and begin the procedure. No matter where the mole is, it can be removed even from tricky areas, such as the lips, scalp, or eyelids. After less than an hour, you will be on your way.
Mole removal is an important yet simple procedure, so is no reason to wait to take that first step and set up a consultation. Contact Radiant Skin Dermatology in New York, New York to have our experienced team assist you in your journey to better, healthier skin.