When it comes to looking and feeling good about oneself, it often appears to be a highly complex emotional attachment to both your physical and mental state at the time. There are multiple sayings in the English language for this, clothes maketh the man, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, confidence comes from within and so on.
Why this is because there really cannot be one socially accepted standard of beauty.
What is it about a mole that causes distress?
Moles can be a sign of melanoma. The deadliest form of skin cancer. Therefore a lot of people are understandably very concerned when they find a new mole on them.
If you are an adult more than 21 years of age, and you keep finding new moles on you, this is a legitimate cause of concern and should be taken up with either a general practitioner or a dermatologist.
Also, if you have moles that are larger than 3mm in size, it is also wise to have them looked at by your doctor.
Basically, any changes in your skin, as in finding a new mole or having an existing mole change its shape or form can be a cause for concern because of the risk of developing cancer from a mole.
Are moles cancer?
Not all moles are cancerous. There are benign (non-cancerous) and cancerous moles. When we talk about cancerous moles, it’s not that all moles are cancer but they have the potential to develop into cancer.
Keep in mind, when we speak of cancerous moles, we’re talking about melanomas. Melanomas are often classified as the most deadly forms of skin cancers. This is because it may only account for 1% of all skin cancers diagnosed but it causes the most number of skin cancer deaths.
Per year, there are over 90,000 new cases of melanomas diagnosed in the United States alone. It is the top five most common cancers in the population today.
What is helpful to differentiate a cancerous mole from a non-cancerous mole is to keep a close eye on it and to observe for ‘warning signs’ that a mole may be cancerous or pre-cancerous. These are commonly described as the ABCDE’s of moles where:-
A: Asymmetry. Assuming you can cut the mole into half right down the middle, the two sides should match each other.
B: Border. The edge of the mole should be clearly demarcated and not have any ragged or irregular margins.
C: Colour. The mole should be of one uniform colour, not varying shades or have different colours altogether. If the colour of a mole changes over time, this is also something to have looked at.
D: Diameter. As long as the mole is under 0.5cm, it is widely classified as not threatening.
E: Evolving. If the mole is cancerous, it will have a good chance of growing or evolving. Any change in colour, consistency, size or shape of the mole should be taken seriously.
Who develops cancer from a mole?
There are plenty of people who have moles that do not develop into cancer or anything life-threatening. There are some people who have an increased tendency to have these moles progress into cancers aka melanoma.
These people usually:
- Have a large number of moles. These quantities can be anywhere from 70 to 100 moles on the body
- Have a strong family history of melanoma (first-degree relative)
- Have the family history of abnormal moles in the family.
This should just be taken as a guideline though. As long as you are concerned about a mole on your body whether it be for aesthetic reasons or for medical concerns, please do get an opinion of your doctor.
Knowing that melanomas can be deadly, the aim is to pick up these moles early and remove them as cleanly as possible and screen for potential complications of melanomas as early as possible so that we achieve the best possible outcome with treatment.
How do I know if a mole can be removed?
The easiest way to know this would be to get the opinion of a doctor. In the general sense of things, there multiple options for removal including laser, surgical options or using specialised machines or tools to remove this.
Depending on the location and the nature of the mole, some doctors may choose different ways of removal so it is always best to get an expert opinion.
Types of surgery for mole removal?
The options for removal surgery largely depends on how the mole presents itself. If it looks suspicious, it is best to remove the mole in its entirety whilst preserving its architecture so it can be sent to a lab for studies to determine if it is cancerous or not.
In these situations, it is likely that the attending doctor will suggest a punch biopsy. This is where we use a tool that looks like a circle with a knife attached to it. It will dig down into the layers of the skin and make a clean circular cut so we can remove the mole without destroying its cells. This makes it feasible for us to study it in the lab to determine its cancerous properties.
A simpler way of removing a mole would be to go in with a surgical knife and slice away at the mole from the bottom of it. This is a highly skilled procedure and can yield good aesthetic results if done well.
With the advent of new technology though, there is also radiofrequency or laser machines capable of either “shaving” or cutting the mole away. Depending on the facilities at a centre, really any of these procedures can be done to remove a mole. As long as the procedure is done to the highest of standards, the outcome should be cosmetically pleasing to you.
Is there going to be a scar after removal?
This largely depends on the removal procedure. In cases where a punch biopsy is done, it will leave a round area of the raw area and that might require stitches to close it up. In that case, the recovery process might be prolonged up to two weeks. The scar also depends on how well the stitches were placed in, to begin with.
If a simple surgical excision was done, the scar might sometimes be not noticeable too but this all depends on the nature of the mole, the location of it and how the procedure was done.
In cases where radiofrequency is used to “shave” the mole down, it is often touted as being scarless but this again really depends on the nature of the mole and the exact protocol used by the doctor operating the machine.
Shaving the mole will essentially strip the outer most layers of skin leaving a scab that will usually heal over quite well. That is the desired effect but really, everyone’s skin has different properties.
If the mole was suspicious, to begin with, it is most likely that a punch biopsy would be done instead of a shaving procedure.
Please be sure to discuss the options and pros and cons regarding each method of removal and how it will affect you before consenting to any procedures.
Its best to be fully aware of the procedure being undertaking it.
How long are the removal process and recovery time? Will it be painful?
This also largely depends on the type of removal procedure being done. Almost all procedures will be preceded by local anaesthesia to numb the area being worked on. This greatly reduces pain to the affected area.
Depending on the nature of the mole and the complexity of its removal, these procedures usually take about ten to 30 minutes.
If the tissue is sent to the lab for studies, the results might take weeks to return.
Recovery time largely depends on the location of the mole, the pre-existing health condition of the person being operated on and the skin condition of the person.
In cases where a punch biopsy is done, you might be required to present for a review a week after the initial procedure is done.
In cases of radiofrequency or laser removal, nearly full recovery can be achieved just hours after the procedure is done with the patient being able to go back to normal daily living activities on the day of procedure being done.