Dr. Joel Schlessinger discusses shave versus punch biopsies

A skin biopsy is a procedure that involves removing a small sample of skin tissue that is then processed and examined for abnormalities. Biopsies are a crucial step in diagnosing many skin conditions, most commonly melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. There are several different methods used to remove skin during a biopsy, and the technique your physician uses will depend on the type and extent of the suspected cancer or abnormality. The two methods most often performed are punch and shave biopsies.

Punch biopsies may be usefulĀ for treating acne scars, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger.

A punch biopsy involves using a special tool to remove a circle of skin that is usually anywhere from two to six millimeters in diameter. This process is similar to using a cookie cutter. Punch biopsies are most advantageous when an abnormality deep below the skin’s surface is suspected. A punch biopsy is ideal for this type of processing, as it ensures that the entire suspicious mole or spot is removed in one attempt. This method is almost always necessary for a flat mole, one that isn’t raised above the skin’s surface.

Punch biopsies are also sometimes used to successfully minimize depressed scars caused by acne or injury. In this instance, the punch biopsy tool is used to excise the scar, and then the skin’s edges are sutured together to produce a new, much less noticeable scar.

Dr. Joel Schlessinger finds shave biopsies useful for identifying certain types of skin cancer.

Generally, Dr. Schlessinger tries to avoid punch biopsies for extracting abnormalities that can be obtained with a surface-level procedure. Shave biopsies involve using a tool to shave or scrape abnormalities off the skin’s surface, and are used often to detect forms of skin cancer like squamous-cell carcinoma and basal-cell carcinoma. Raised moles and spots can usually be shaved off with success.

Physicans like Dr. Joel Schlessinger will decide between a punch or shave biopsy based on your unique needs.

When it comes to choosing between a punch or shave biopsy, there is no hard and fast rule. Your physician will make the best choice for your unique circumstances, and for those patients concerned with pain and scarring, there is no method that is more preferable than the other. Tolerance and then the subsequent healing process depend on the individual, the physician and the physician’s experience and technique. Dr. Schlessinger stresses that this area of dermatology is particularly variable, and that patients should bring up any questions or concerns with their physician.

Do you have a question for Dr. Schlessinger about biopsies? Let us know in the comments section.

Posted Friday, December 19th, 2014 at 7:19 pm
Filed Under Category: Skin Cancer
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