By Alexandra Matkevich RN
Due to our climate, Australians are at a high risk of skin cancer and sun related changes to the skin. It is recommended to go for regular skin checks with your GP or dermatologist. If there is any cause for concern, your doctor will take a small biopsy of the skin to see if any further treatment is necessary.
What is a skin biopsy?
A biopsy is a small section of tissue that is removed to be looked at by a pathologist. For a skin biopsy, the area may be as small as a grain of rice or the size of a pea. The pathologist will look at the skin under a microscope and examine the tissue cells, looking for any changes or abnormalities. The results of the biopsy will determine your diagnosis and any further treatment required.
In Australia, most biopsies are covered under Medicare. They can be bulk billed or may require a co-payment. Speak with your doctor or pathology service about any possible fees that may be charged to you for your biopsy.
Immediately after a biopsy
If local anaesthetic has been used to collect the biopsy, expect some numbness around the area for the next few hours. When the anaesthetic wears off, it is normal to experience some tenderness. The area will usually be dressed with bandaid or other small dressing.
How to care for the wound site
Most of all, it is important to keep the dressing dry and intact. If the dressing becomes wet or soiled it is time to change it. A wet dressing is a risk for infection.
You might be asked by your doctor to clean the wound before applying a new dressing. Start by washing your hands with soap and water, and then dry them carefully with a clean towel. Cleanse the area with a cotton ball and salt water solution which is made of 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water. Then apply the fresh dressing.
Watch out for infection!
Keep an eye out for any signs of infection. If you notice any signs of infection you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible. A normal biopsy wound site will look a little bit pink around the edges and have a scab. Signs of infection include:
After your biopsy is taken, it is a good idea to come in for a follow up either one or two weeks after the procedure. The doctor can check the wound is healing well and discuss the results of your biopsy, as well as any further treatment options.