A biopsy is a procedure that is used to help identify a condition and how far it has progressed. It involves taking a small sample of tissue from the area and analyzing it under a microscope to determine if it contains abnormal cells. Biopsies are commonly performed when doctors suspect the presence of cancer. It is also performed to diagnose unusual infections, rashes, form of eczema, reactions to medication, and systemic diseases manifest in the skin. Biopsies can be used in both making an accurate diagnosis, as well as determining an effective treatment plan. There are several different kinds of biopsies including needle biopsies, CT-guided biopsies, and ultrasound biopsies are well known. Almost any type of tissue can be biopsied, including bone, liver, lung, prostate, skin, and kidneys, just to name a few.
Doctors will often call for a biopsy when they notice changes in tissue, a mass, or the size, color, and texture of a blemish or mole. The dermatologist will also take a biopsy when the patient has a rash or an unknown infection, and the dermatologist needs to further define the process. Numerous systemic diseases can have unusual presentations in the skin. These processes need to be biopsied.
By taking a small section of tissue, the doctor can detect any cell abnormalities and uncover possible health conditions that require immediate treatment. In some cases, like when a mole or breast lump is biopsied, the doctor may remove the entire structure so they do not puncture or damage it any way. By removing the entire piece, the contents remain contained and will not spread throughout the body. If the biopsy returns results that indicate cancer, the doctor may re-examine the area where the biopsy was performed to make sure the cancer has not spread to surrounding tissues.
Dr. Craig Austin, M.D. is a board certified dermatogist and pathologist. He not only performs the biopsy, but also received specialized training in interpreting the specimen via a microscope. Dr. Craig Austin teaches dermatopathology to dermatology residents at Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, St. Barnabas, and Southampton Hospital.
Different types of skin cancers are characterized by different types of symptoms, clinical signs and behaviors. Malignant melanoma is potentially deadly if not diagnosed at an early stage. It is characterized by a changing in the appearance in a mole, which tends to be brown in color. If the mole changes in size, shape, circumscription, and color, these are very important features in being noticed. Additionally, if the mole becomes systematic, such as developing an itch or starts to bleed, a biopsy should definitely be performed. The dermatologist is particulary sensitive to changed in congential moles that have a higher incidence of developing a malignant melanoma. The other forms of skin cancer that are common include a Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These typically occur on sun exposed areas of the skin and have a lot of sun damage. The basel cell carcinoma characterized by waxy or pearly looking bumps, and lesions that look like brown or fleshy looking scars. They often ulcerate and bleed. Squamous cell cancers are characterized by scaly, red nodules that may be firm or solid. They also may bleed or ulcerate. Changes in the preexisting growth of any kind, may be an early lesion of a skin malignancy.
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