A biopsy involves taking a sample of a suspicious lesion where the diagnosis is unclear. A pathologist can then give an exact diagnosis, allowing the doctor to determine whether further and more extensive treatment is required, thereby avoiding a larger, unnecessary procedure initially. Biopsies are performed using local anaesthetic and can be done in a number of ways, including:

  • Punch biopsy – a small ‘core sample’ of the lesion is taken. They can be 3-8mm in diameter, and are used for raised or lumpy skin lesions.
  • Shave biopsy – the entire lesion is superficially shaved off. This is more appropriate for large, flat skin lesions.
  • Excision biopsy – the lesion is cut out with a narrow margin, usually 2-3mm. This is used for possible melanoma skin lesions.

Biopsies all receive a dressing, and may require stitches. Specific instructions regarding wound care after a biopsy will be given out at the time of procedure. Biopsy results usually take a few days to a week to obtain. Once back, your doctor will discuss the result with you, and together plan the next management steps, as required.