Off the Mark: Demystifying Mole Removal
What are Moles Anyway?
By M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Moles are benign (non-cancerous) growths of melanocytes, the cells that give skin its color. The medical term for mole is nevus (nevi being the plural).
Moles are common. In fact, almost all of us have a few. They may be flat or raised and most show up before we turn 30.
Are Moles Dangerous?
Most moles are harmless. That said, some increase the risk for melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer. That's why the first rule of thumb is always to make sure a mole is not cancerous. This is usually done through a yearly visit to a dermatologist along with a biopsy of anything suspicious. Most moles won't require treatment unless they are bothersome, unsightly or potentially cancerous.
Mole Removal Options
If your mole requires treatment, many options exist. During surgical excision, the mole is removed and the skin stitched closed. In some cases, the mole will be sent off to a lab for a biopsy to see if it is precancerous or cancerous.
Another mole removal method, shaving, involves the use of a blade to remove the mole. (Never, ever try this at home!)
More Mole Removal Options
Freezing a mole off requires the use of liquid nitrogen. Your doctor swabs or sprays a small amount of super-cold liquid nitrogen on the mole. Afterward, there may be a small blister in its place that will go away.
Another mole removal method incorporates the use of an electric current to burn off the upper layers of the skin.
Lasers, too, may play a role in mole removal; however, this is not an option if a biopsy is required because the laser leaves nothing after treatment.
Radiosurgery melts the mole down to skin level using radiofrequency energy. There are no cuts or stitches with this method, and there is still something left to biopsy.
Mole Removal Fears
The biggest concern with any mole removal technique is the risk of scarring. Anytime the skin is cut, there is a risk. Some people develop red, raised and difficult-to-treat scars. Radiosurgery has been called the closest method there is to scarless mole removal.
Another mole removal concern is the possibility depending on how the mole was removed that it could come back. No mole removal surgery has a 100 percent removal rate. A few mole cells may remain and recur in the same or another area.
Discuss your concerns with the physician treating your moles.
Mole Removal Costs
By At.morey.tota [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The cost to remove a mole ranges from about $100 to $500. Price varies based on the removal method, the number and size of moles, and where they are located. Insurance may cover the cost of moles deemed suspicious, but if mole removal is purely cosmetic, the cost will all come from your pocket.
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