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When Should You Remove Moles?

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  • Written By: Bobbie Fredericks
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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There are several instances in which it becomes necessary or desirable to remove moles. Moles can be cosmetically unsightly, and also become cancerous. Moles are removed in two ways: excision, and excision with cauterization. Regardless of the reason for mole removal, the process will be the same. Moles that appear to be cancerous will be sent to a lab for testing after removal.

Cosmetic issues are commonly sighted as reasons to remove moles. Some patients feel embarrassed by moles, whether they are large or small. Moles sometimes grow long, course, dark hairs, which can also cause embarrassment. Patients considering cosmetic mole removal should take into consideration the possibility of scarring. Large moles may leave large scars, which may be more or less unsightly than the mole being removed.

Discomfort is another possible reason to remove moles. While not painful themselves, large moles may be irritated by clothing. Even if irritation is the suspected cause, any pain or bleeding in moles should be reported to a health care provider. The mole will be evaluated for signs of skin cancer, and sent to a lab for confirmation once removed.

The majority of moles are completely harmless, but some can become cancerous. If a mole is asymmetric, irregular, very large, or if it is painful or bleeds, it may be cancerous or precancerous. All new or suspicious moles should be reported to a health care provider. The provider will determine if removal is necessary, or if regular observation is best.

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General surgeons are trained to remove moles, but many patients prefer it to be done by a dermatologist. Whichever provider you choose, make sure he or she is experienced in mole removal. Complications of mole removal surgery include reaction to the anesthetic, nerve damage, and scarring. Other potential side effects depend on the location of the mole.

To remove moles, the surgeon or dermatologist will first cleanse the area. A local anesthetic, typically lidocaine, will be used to numb the immediate area. The provider performing the removal will cut the mole off either at or under the skin. Stitches might be needed, but are not always necessary, especially with cauterization. The removed tissue will be sent to a lab for analysis if there are suspicions of cancer.

Infection may occur in the surgical wound. If there are symptoms of discharge, severe pain, or fever, a health care provider should be consulted. Applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or cream and keeping the wound covered reduce the chances of infection.

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bythewell
Post 3

@pleonasm - I'm not sure if that's common though. I don't think many surgeons are allowed to do procedures, even tiny ones like removing moles, without a lot of paperwork in case something goes wrong.

And I don't actually think it's worth removing them unless they are somehow dangerous or in the way.

pleonasm
Post 2

@croydon - The problem is that most doctors just aren't that knowledgeable about skin cancer. They tend to either over-test moles or not test them at all. If you really have worries, you should go to a skin specialist. You might not even have to pay as much, as there are places that specialize in detecting skin cancer and they won't charge as much as a regular doctor might.

I think it's a fairly good practice to remove skin moles if you can anyway. My father once got a surgeon to remove a mole while he was in surgery for something else, so it's possible to add the procedure.

croydon
Post 1

A friend of mine had a suspicious looking mole that she would bring to the attention of doctors and they would almost always dismiss it. After a few years of this, she mentioned it to her newest doctor, who decided that it was worth taking a sample to check it. My friend almost didn't consent to this, as by this time she was convinced the mole was probably nothing.

It turned out that there were two melanoma tumors underneath the mole and that they could have metastasized at any point. The doctors had to take a chunk the size of a fist out of my friend's arm in order to make sure that they had got it all.

So be forceful about getting tested if you have suspicious moles. They aren't that difficult to test and remove but if they spread into other parts of the body it can turn into a tragedy.

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