Everything You Need to Know About Mole Removal
People will often get moles removed because of cosmetic problems—the mole is on their face or another area of their body where they don't want any dark spots. Others will have them removed because they look strange and could indicate cancer or other skin problems.
Whatever the reason you have for getting a mole removed, it's important to understand different procedures, post-treatment care, and the risk for scarring.
I have had about a dozen removed because they looked strange, so mole removal is a familiar subject for me. I have a fairer, more sensitive skin type, so it may always be possible to tell where I once had one. Sometimes my moles have grown back or a scar is quite visible. Read on to find out what I have learned about this process.
How to Tell When a Mole Should Be Removed
Moles can be tricky things to diagnose, as they all look very different from one another. However, some good rules to follow when keeping track of yours are as follows:
- Is it growing? Moles can actually grow and change size fairly fast, so it's a good idea to keep a brief record of the moles on your body for a few months to see if it changes size or grows larger.
- Is it bleeding, itchy or inflamed? These are all signs that your mole is growing and changing and you should have it checked out by a professional.
- Are there changes in shape? If the general size stays the same, but the edges of the mole change shape or the mole grows rounder in the middle, you should have it checked.
- Are there changes in color? Changes in color or uneven coloration are a good indicator that something is going on that should be checked out.
Did You Know?
The average person has 10-30 benign (or harmless) moles on their body.
See a Dermatologist
It makes sense that a skin doctor would be the first place you would go for an examination. All of my moles were removed by a certified dermatologist who then sent them off to be tested.
Call your dermatologist and schedule a "mole check." They will have you disrobe down to your underwear, and you will wear a paper robe. I have a female dermatologist for this reason. They will check all the moles on your body.
Most dermatologists will not check your groin or breast area (if female) for moles without your permission. You should ask specifically, if you have a mole in either of these locations and want them to be checked.
You may be able to have your moles removed by local doctors since the most common procedure is generally fairly easy, but a dermatologist is an expert in your skin and should be your first resource if possible.
Warning: Do Not Do it Yourself at Home
You may be sorely tempted to try to shave a mole off yourself or otherwise remove it at home, but you should never try this. Not only is it very possible that you will be unable to remove all of the mole, but you risk infection and scarring. Also, you will not have the ready option to send the removed tissue in to be tested for cancerous growth. This type of lab test could save your life.
How Are Moles Removed?
The procedure is fairly easy, painless and quick. This comes as a surprise to most people, but it usually only requires local anesthesia administered via shot.
The dermatologist may numb the area before administering the shot, but the shot is only given beneath the bottom layer of skin and pinches only slightly.
After shaving (excision without stitches) your dermatologist will cauterize the area, which means they will use heat or a special light to close the blood veins beneath the area where the mole used to be. You should experience very minimal bleeding.
The possible procedures are listed in the table below. Be sure to talk them over with your dermatologist before deciding on the best procedure.
Types of Procedures
Type of Removal
Very small, light moles in noticeable areas
Low - Not very effective against most moles
Excision with stitches
Deep, large, dark moles that lie flat
High - Generally the mole is completely removed and does not grow back
Excision without stitches
Average sized moles that don't go deep into the skin
Medium - Sometimes these moles will grow back over time, but can be removed again
Treatment After Removal
Your dermatologist should supply you with a small container of salve to rub on the removal area for the next few days.
Laser removal requires the least amount of care post-procedure, while excision with stitches will require monitoring and then a return to your dermatologist for removal of the stitches.
Excision areas without stitches will heal (be free of a scab) within about a week. You should keep the area dry for at least twenty four hours and keep a bandage on it for the first two or three days. Do not pick the scab as this may cause additional scarring.
It will take about six weeks for your mole tests to return. Most of the time, they will indicate that nothing is wrong with the mole.
Sometimes the tests will indicate suspicious growth was taking place in the mole that could have developed into cancer (only one of my twelve removed moles came back with this result).
Even more rarely the tests will indicate the presence of skin cancer.
Your mole removal will leave a scar, and depending on the size, location and depth, your scar may fade within one to three years, or it may never fade.
As I said earlier, fairer, more sensitive skin types (like mine) may always be able to tell where they once had a mole.
Sometimes moles grow back. The first picture below was taken about ten months after I had a mole removed. You can see the remains of the raised scar around the mole in the center.
The mole began to grow back about four months later. There is no particular reason a mole grows back. It is not a bad sign. It just happens. You can have it removed again, but it will probably only be a matter of time until it grows back.
The second picture below is my largest, most noticeable scar, caused by location. The mole was removed from on top of the sensitive nodes located in the armpit and was swollen and red for a long time after removal.
About two months later, the scar was raised, bright pink, and it itched frequently. This is extremely unusual, but not cause for concern, according to my dermatologist. Nine months later, the scar is entirely flat, pale pink and fading.