An excision is an operation to cut out skin, and in most cases, this can be performed in the clinic under local anesthetic.

While excision is most commonly used to treat both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, it may also be performed if a patient wishes to have a non-cancerous mole removed or any other benign growthIn the latter instance, it is sometimes considered a ‘cosmetic,’ or ‘elective’ treatment, since there is no clinical need to remove the mole, and choosing to do so is typically about the patient’s aesthetic concerns. 

What is the Benefit of Excision?

A blood test allows the dermatologist to get further diagnostic information with which to make a diagnosis of a skin condition and determine a course of treatment.

When excision is for the treatment of skin cancers, it removes the tumour, so that the skin cancer is not able to spread to adjacent healthy tissues.  

The removed skin is then sent to a specialist laboratory for analysis (called histopathology), to check: 

  • The diagnosis is correct; and  
  • The cancer has been completely removed. 

Who is Excision Suitable For?

Excision is suitable for:

  • Patients who have been diagnosed with skin cancers
  • Patients whose moles or growths are causing symptoms such as itching or pain;
  • Removal of all but the most minor growths, which may be removed through a shave excision.

In ‘cosmetic’ mole removal, excision would take away the mole, in most cases leaving very little scarring.  Your dermatologist will advise on whether excision is likely to result in obvious scarring.

What are the Risks and Complications of Excision?

This type of surgery will commonly leave a scar, however depending on your age, the location of the excision, and how your skin usually scars, it may be more or less visible. Most scars take time to fully heal and blend in with the surrounding skin.

Very occasionally, if scarring is abnormal, it can result in large, raised scars - for example, a hypertrophic scar, which is caused by the body overproducing collagen during the healing process; or a keloid scar, which is the result of the overgrowth of scar tissue. Once the wound is fully healed, the appearance of Keloid scarring can be treated by the dermatologist, but they are harmless.  

Depending on the location of the excision, and/or the patient’s mobility, it might be more difficult to keep a healing wound clean and dry – this may elevate the risk of complications. Your dermatologist can advise if this is likely to be the case with your excision.   

Some lifestyle factors, such as smoking, can affect wound healing, and can even cause irregular scarring or more serious complications, so while it is best for your health not to smoke at all, it is essential that you heed the advice of your dermatologist in the weeks prior to, and after excision surgery. 

As with all surgery, there is a small risk of complications, such as nerve damage or an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic or sutures. These risks will be explained by the dermatologist, who is the best trained and qualified person to avoid these events.  

Following the surgery, it is possible that you may experience complications such as bleeding, infection, swelling, or reopening of the incision. 

It is important to contact the clinic if you are experiencing any of these complications or unexpected pain or discomfortwhether they present immediately in the days following the operation, or weeks on from the excision.  

In the rare event that you need care urgently and cannot contact the clinic, you should go to the hospital. If necessary, dial 999.

What is the Recovery Time and Outcome for Excision?

Most excisions take between 10-14 days to heal, but depending on the individual, complete healing can take up to four weeks. Most people heal quite quickly if they are in generally good health and haven’t had any complications.  

The follow-up care instructions provided by the clinic will let you know how long you’ll need to recover before you resume normal activities, or when you can resume taking certain over-the-counter medications. If there are any special considerations, your dermatologist will advise you, and if you have any questions during your recovery, you can email our team, who will endeavour to reply as quickly as possible.  

Most people do not need a further appointment with a dermatologist following the surgery but may need to come into the clinic to have stitches removed. However, if you have confirmed skin cancer, you may need a further appointment with a dermatologist, and regular follow up appointments may be advised.  

Related Specialists at Derma

The following dermatologists specialise in Excision

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