If you’re scared that an upcoming biopsy of what you think is a melanoma might spread the cancer cells, you’ve every reason to be worried.
Yes, a melanoma biopsy has the potential to “spread” the cancer.
“Melanoma theoretically spreads through lymphatics and blood vessels and along nerve fibers,” says Sharyn Laughlin, MD, board certified dermatologist and co-founder of the CyberDERM line of sun protection products and medical director of Laserderm, a pioneering laser skin surgery clinic in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
“So any biopsy or surgical incision could cut across melanoma cells and spread them in this way.”
The Kind of Excision that Minimizes the Spread of Melanoma Cells.
How to Minimize the Spread of Melanoma Cells from a Biopsy
“I prefer a tangential excision that avoids the melanoma and removes the entire lesion with a narrow margin of normal skin if possible.” says Dr. Laughlin.
“I also prefer to seal the biopsy site with a CO2 laser that coagulates vessel and nerves, and seals the site, preventing dissemination of cells.”
If a dermatologist suspects that a spot might be a melanoma, don’t be afraid to request that a margin of skin—that surrounds the spot—be removed as well.
“A punch biopsy will take more of a margin than will a shave or excisional biopsy.”
Facts About Melanoma You Probably Don’t Know
- Dark skinned people are not immune to this cancer.
- The tumor can arise inside the mouth, nose and eye.
- In rare cases the tumor appears flesh colored or pink.
- Since melanoma can arise out of pre-existing moles, you should check every mole on your body on a monthly basis. Do you KNOW where all your moles are? Moles can grow inside your belly button, between your butt cheeks, behind your ears and on the bottoms of your feet.
- Every mole that you have removed, whether for a suspicion of melanoma or for cosmetic reasons, should be biopsied.