What do atypical (or pre-cancerous) skin biopsy results mean? Many patients wonder if this should be cause for concern or just a warning sign. When interpreting atypical biopsy results it is important to understand the facts related to your specific health history, as not all diagnoses of atypical mean the same thing.
Medically speaking ‘atypical’ moles biopsied during a skin exam (most commonly a shave biopsy) are unusual-looking benign (noncancerous) moles. In atypical/precancerous results a pathologist sees abnormal features under the microscope but not enough to clinically diagnose the results as melanoma.
If the doctor removed all the margins of the atypical area (meaning the edges of the sample showed no precancerous cells) he/she will evaluate your medical history and create the appropriate plan moving forward, most likely suggesting your next skin exam in 6 months opposed to 12 (especially for those who have a personal or family history with melanoma).
If the margins in the sample were not clear and the degree of atypical was moderate to server the doctor may have you return for a further biopsy to make sure all atypical cells are removed, this is also likely if have a history of skin cancer.
Most melanomas arise in normal, not atypical, skin so unless you have a higher risk factor your result of atypical/precancerous is just a friendly nudge to perform self skin exams, be diligent about your sun safety and regularly see your dermatologist.
Over due for your appointment? Have a spot you’re suspicious of? Call today and make an appointment with our new medical dermatologist- Dr. Ashton Rountree.
During the month of May there is a lot of talk about getting routine skin checks, how to prepare for these and what to expect. What is less discussed is what happens if your dermatologist finds a suspicious spot during the exam.
First thing to note is there are three common types of biopsies which your doctor can choose to perform- a shave, punch, or excisional biopsy. During a shave biopsy the doctor will use a thin blade to shave the suspect area, for a punch biopsy the doctor will use a hollow tool to remove a circle of tissue from the area and in an excisional biopsy a scalpel will be used to remove the growth and tissue around it.
The type of biopsy done is up to your doctor’s discretion based on factors such as your medical history and the type of growth or spot being removed.
Once the procedure(s) are complete the sample(s) of skin tissue will be sent to the lab to be examined under a microscope. Most samples sent for testing are suspect of skin cancer, but can also be done for other common skin conditions. Results from a skin biopsy usually return within 2-3 weeks and your doctor will notify you of the results.
Results are categorized a few ways. First being Normal vs Abnormal. Normal results indicate the sample consists of normal skin tissue. Abnormal results are categorized into various subcategories- benign (noncancerous), Cancer cells (basal, squamous or melanoma cells), other diseases (such as lupus or psoriasis) or positive bacteria or fungal infection.
Your results will determine the next steps in your care, and your dermatologist will guide you to the best solution for your results.
If you haven’t had a regular skin check or notice anything suspicious make an appointment to see one of our expert staff. Early detection of skin cancers can save your life.
|*Courtesy of aad.org