Skin Biopsy

After your initial consultation, if your specialist thinks that a mole, lump or other problem area of skin may be cancerous, they will undertake a skin biopsy to investigate further.

What is a skin biopsy?

A biopsy involves removing some of the skin cells for examination under a microscope. The removal of the skin is performed under local anaesthetic and usually only takes a few minutes. The skin sample is then examined under the microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells, and if they are present, what type of skin cancer has developed.

Having a skin biopsy does not automatically mean you have skin cancer, as skin biopsies are often taken as a precaution to rule out cancer. Your result may come back clear and the cause of your skin problem will be investigated further.

Enquire about
Skin Cancer

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Why have a skin biopsy?

Skin cancer is best identified as early as possible, before it spreads into the lymphatic system and/or other organs of the body. Having a skin biopsy allows your dermatologist to determine the type of skin cancer you have and the likelihood of the cancer spreading.

Skin biopsies can also be used following cancer surgery or other treatment, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, to determine whether the cancer has been fully removed or cured, or whether further treatment is required.

Skin biopsies are done under local anaesthetic and will sometimes leave a small scar. Punch and incision/excision biopsies will usually need stitches to help them heal. In some cases, especially with excision biopsies, the test doubles as the treatment, as the whole of the tumour is removed leaving a healthy margin of cancer free cells.

Types of skin biopsy

At The Devonshire Clinic we offer several different types of skin biopsy, and the type that is used will depend on the type and depth of the suspected cancer.

The four main skin biopsy techniques are:

  • Shave biopsy. This is a limited technique that shaves a shallow sample of the epidermis and the upper dermis. It is only used when there is a low risk of melanoma, or in cases where the cancer is not thought to have penetrated too deeply into the skin cells. Shave biopsies leave a surface wound that will often heal without scarring.
  • Punch biopsy. A small, round punch tool is used to cut a cylindrical sample of the skin including the epidermis, dermis and upper subcutis (the layer of connective tissue just beneath the dermis). A punch biopsy will often require stitching to help it heal and may leave a small scar.
  • Incision biopsy. This involves the surgical removal of a sample of the suspected cancer using a scalpel. The incision will usually require stitching to help it to heal.
  • Excision biopsy. Similar to an incision biopsy, except that in this case, the surgeon aims to remove the whole of the suspected tumour rather than just taking a sample. Not only will the cancer itself be analysed under a microscope, but the edges of the sample will also be checked to ensure that a healthy margin of cancer free cells has been left at the excision site. While excision biopsies will usually leave a larger scar, they do have the benefit of being both test and treatment in one procedure.

The results of a skin biopsy

You will usually get the results of your skin biopsy quickly. Our dermatologists will explain whether or not the problem was cancerous, what type of cancer is present, and what treatment, if any, is required.

Skin Cancer Treatments

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Mohs micrographic surgery involves the removal of cancerous tissue from the tumour, then the immediate examination [...]

Read More

Topical Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is an advanced technique for treating some types of skin cancer and skin conditions that[...]

Read More

Mole Removal

If you have a mole that has grown, changed colour or started to bleed or weep, your dermatologist may advise that i[...]

Read More

Skin Cancer Surgery

Surgery is usually the primary treatment for skin cancer. Skin surgery is used to take samples for biopsy and it ca[...]

Read More

Why use the Devonshire Clinic?

Second Opinions

When you are faced with difficult medical choices or uncertainty and you want clarity about your diagnosis and the treatment that you will receive, then getting a second opinion from a private doctor can help put your mind at rest.

Read our
Patient Stories

I can’t recommend this clinic highly enough. The treatment I received for my skin cancer was first class

AL, London

The team at the Devonshire Clinic were excellent. From booking my appointments to every part of my treatment, I felt that I was in the very best hands.

CH, London

Before visiting the clinic I had quite high expectations, but I was blown away by just how brilliant the experience was. I felt like I was the only patient in the clinic. Simply the best medical treatment.

SF, London

Latest News

01 Jul 2019

10 Essential Facts About Skin Cancer

Melanoma skin cancer is fifth most common type of cancer in the UK. Cases of melanoma have[...]

Read More
19 Jun 2019

Are Skin Diseases Contagious?

Skin diseases can be contagious or noncontagious and it is sometimes difficult to tell whi[...]

Read More

About Us

find out about the
clinic and how we can help you

Read More

Our Consultants

Meet our specialist
consultants who are here to help you

Read More