Remember how it is Melanoma Awareness Month? I had my annual skin check with my dermatologist last week! Fortunately, a good visit, nothing scary was found. My main purpose for visiting, however, was to have a second mole removed; this one for mostly cosmetic (non-cancer!) purposes (like the first). Positioned by my left ear, I frequently graze this one with a hairbrush or comb. For those of you who may not have any moles, sometimes they’re hyper sensitive and something that doesn’t feel like much elsewhere can be quite painful – i.e., comb grazing normal skin vs. a mole.
The procedure, though not terribly pleasant, is not difficult or time consuming. In fact, the receptionist failed to note the reason for my appointment when I booked it, but it wasn’t a problem. Previously, I had one removed in November 2013 via a shave-style excision. I get questions from time-to-time, and I was also surprised by the low number of people talking about these procedures, so I wanted to share my experiences.
This post does not contain pictures, but may be considered graphic due to the description of the procedure. If you are exceptionally squeamish and/or NOT interested in information about these procedures, you may want to skip this one!
Most of my moles are really more like freckles, tiny specks on my arms and torso. A few, however, are raised; one was located on my chin in such a way that I felt it drew a lot of attention. Whether it really was or not, I was self-conscious about it.
On the heels of my mom’s diagnosis that Autumn, I went to the dermatologist myself for a checkup. My main goal was to ensure I had no questionable spots, but I asked about removal during my appointment. I already hated the dang thing, and my wedding was the following summer; I wasn’t keen on it being in pictures.
The mole removal procedure itself was quick and simple – after confirming that I was not allergic to local anesthetics (lidocaine, novocaine, etc), they swabbed the area with alcohol and anesthetized the removal site via injecting the solution under the skin with a tiny needle. Needles freak me out, but I got through it both times without issue. They wait a moment for the lidocaine to kick in and then, using a surgical razor, the doctor shaves off the area in question. Frequently, multiple passes are needed to remove all affected tissue. Fortunately, you cannot feel anything other than a little tugging; no discomfort provided you were properly anesthetized.
For my sanity, I kept my eyes closed. I did not wish to see the razor or any of the removed tissue. Because it was a pigmented mole and due to my family history, they collected it to be sent for biopsy (it came back fine). After cleaning the new wound, the doctor applied a liquid cauterizing agent to the site to stop the bleeding, and applied the bandage.
Later that day, while eating, I started bleeding through the bandage. This is totally normal – but the bleeding didn’t stop. My after-care instructions said to remove the bandage and apply gauze with steady, firm pressure for fifteen minutes. I kept bleeding. I had no discomfort, still.
Ultimately, I had to return to the office; the chemical cautery was insufficient (not enough was applied, they said), so they had to go about it the old fashioned way. They re-anesthetized me to be safe, heated the tool (it looks way too close to a soldering iron for my liking!) and dealt with it. I won’t mince words – I freaked out a bit. I’ve never had to have something cauterized before, and I was not prepared for the sound or smell.
It went perfectly fine, but I had to lay in the chair for fifteen minutes after we were done just to calm down. From there on out, everything was fine and went as expected. I had to clean and replace bandages twice a day for a week, then once a day for a few more days.
Another funny fact about me: Blood and wounds do not typically bother me … unless they’re my own. (Ridiculous, I know.) A simple cut or scratch is nothing, but much more than that makes me feel pretty panicked. The first few days sucked because of that, but in terms of physical discomfort there was nothing more than a little soreness. I needed to stay bandaged for about a week and a half. I exercised restraint with respect to my facial expressions so as not to stress the area for two weeks after the procedure.
It healed wonderfully! It was a bit pink for the first month after it healed, and it gradually started to fade and blend in with my skin. There’s definitely a scar, but it isn’t unsightly to me (far less so than what it replaced); although I definitely notice the scar, most people legitimately do not – which is awesome. Also, it covers easily with foundation or concealer!
2016 (Last Week!)
I actually got to see the nurse practitioner rather than the MD. I say, “got to,” rather than most people who would say, “had to,” because my experience with her was WAY better. Like the first one, she had me recline on the exam table, cleaned up the site with an alcohol swab, and then anesthetized the area. This one was also removed via a shave, but she was much gentler – I barely felt any tugging, and it was over MUCH faster (awesome). Unfortunately, I seem to have a ton of bloodflow to these particular areas, so she did choose to go about sealing it with the electrocautery tool – but she warned me so I was better prepared. It was still gross, but the experience was worlds better because she was considerate. She cleaned me up, popped a dot bandage on, and send me on my way. The procedure took mere minutes.
NO complications later in the day! The site seemed far less, “gory,” than my first time with this procedure. I have seriously had zero discomfort, and I haven’t freaked out about changing my bandages either. This is pure luck (rather, the skill of my treatment provider) but I’m pretty happy. The location of this one is not such that I need to exercise caution eating or speaking).
My care instructions were the same as before – clean twice-daily, then apply an Aquaphor-covered bandage to the site for a week. After that, if it isn’t healed, I do that once daily until it is.
This is just my experience!
I am not a medical professional, and you should ask your dermatologist about these procedures.
Some good questions to ask your treatment provider if you’re looking to have a mole removed:
- After I have this mole removed, what is the chance of recurrence? (Moles can recur!) How soon?
- What type of removal procedure would you recommend or perform for the affected site? (There are several types!)
- Will there be stitches?
- Will cauterization be necessary? Which methods do you use?
- What sort of care will I need to perform for the site afterwards?
- Do I need to avoid sunlight during healing?
- Should I avoid any particular skincare products after it has initially healed? (Like BHAs/AHAs?)
And no matter what, remember to wear sunscreen! This one from Biore Japan in my favorite.
Have you had such a skincare procedure? Would you be willing to help others by sharing yours?