Moles most frequently develop in young adults until about the age of 40. Depending on their location, moles may go unnoticed -- or they may become a nuisance by rubbing against clothing and getting in the way of shaving. Moles can also lead to dangerous health problems. Many skin cancers, including melanoma, begin in the shape of a mole.
If you have a mole that seems atypical in any way -- one that changes in size and appearance, bleeds, is asymmetrical, is not uniform in color, has ragged edges, or in any other way seems unusual -- it is very important to have it examined by a doctor with experience in treating moles, related skin conditions, and skin cancer.
Not all atypical moles turn out to be cancerous, but they are more likely than typical moles to develop into cancer. If a cancerous mole is diagnosed early, it can often be completely removed. You may also want to have normal moles removed, especially those that rub against clothing or get in the way of shaving. Prominent moles may also be removed to improve appearance.
If you are considering having one or more moles removed, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a facial surgeon who is board certified or has completed a residency program that includes instruction in this procedure.
*The costs for mole removal vary depending on the method used. Fees typically range from $50 to $550.
Moles on the face or body are extremely commonplace; however, some may become a problem when they are itchy, large or raised, or when they change shape, size or color.
Scars are very common after mole removal surgery, but often fade with time.
- What are some of the most common benefits of this procedure?
- How are moles removed?
- How long does the procedure take?
- Where will the procedure be performed?
- How much pain is there?
- What can I expect after the procedure?
- What is the recovery period like?
- What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
- Ideal Candidate
- Risks and limitations:
What are some of the most common benefits of mole removal?
If your doctor determines that a mole is potentially cancerous, removal will most likely be recommended. It is very important to follow your doctor's advice if he/she recommends that you remove a mole. Removing a mole can stop the spread of cancerous or potentially cancerous skin cells. The removal of normal moles can also lead to smoother, clearer skin, as well as reducing any skin irritation.
What will happen at the initial consultation?
During the initial consultation, you'll be able to talk to your doctor about the changes you would like to make in your appearance. He/she will explain the different options available to you, the procedure itself, and its risks and limitations. He/she will also explain the kind of anesthesia required, surgical facility, and costs. Your doctor will begin with a complete medical history and examine your mole. He/she may also take photos and give you specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. Take this opportunity to ask all the questions you have about the procedure. Learning everything you can about your options, risks, and benefits is the key to making an informed decision. See "Questions to Ask Your Doctor" below.
How are moles removed?
Because moles can be cancerous, doctors will usually examine them carefully by performing a biopsy or microscope analysis. A small portion of the mole will be removed for this purpose. It may be removed with an instrument that quickly punches out a small section of the mole, or it may also be cut with a scalpel or scissors. This tissue is then sent to a pathology lab to be examined.
If lab examination shows the mole to be normal, the doctor can remove it either by shaving or cutting it. The shaving method works by removing the protruding surface of the mole so that it is flush with the surrounding skin. This technique is common for patients who have moles that become irritated by clothing or movement. However, it can leave some of the mole cells beneath the skin, and the mole may grow back again over the next several years.
The cutting method of mole removal may be used for both normal and atypical moles. (Potentially cancerous moles are nearly always removed using this technique.) This procedure is often called elliptical excision because the mole, as well as the surrounding and underlying tissue, is removed in the shape of an ellipse, or oval. All of the mole is removed, both above and below the skin. A small medical blade may be used, or a laser may be chosen to reduce bleeding and allow for quicker healing time. If a blade is used, sutures (stitched) are used to close the incision if it is cut. If a laser is used, sutures will not be needed. After the procedure, a bandage is usually applied.
How long does the procedure take?
Mole removal typically takes less than an hour to perform.
Where will the procedure be performed?
Mole removal can generally be performed in the doctor's office or in a surgical suite, depending on your preferences as well as your doctor's. It may be performed under local anesthesia with light sedation, or local anesthesia with deep sedation. If you have many moles to be removed, or if the procedure is expected to take a long time, general anesthesia may be recommended. You may be allowed to return home within a few hours of the surgery and spend the night in the comfort of your own home.
If you have other medical problems, concurrent procedures, or a lengthier procedure performed under general anesthesia, it may be necessary to spend the night in the hospital so your recovery process can be monitored by a medical staff.
How much pain is there?
Most doctors use a local anesthetic to reduce pain and discomfort. You should feel little or no pain during the procedure itself. Often when a laser is used, no anesthetic is needed because there is not pain, just a tingling sensation. Discuss your goals, budget, and pain tolerance with your surgeon in order to help him/her determine the procedure, or combination of procedures, that will produce the best results for you.
What can I expect after the procedure?
The amount of pain afterward varies, and depends on the method used. After a mole is removed, a scab will develop and then heal within one to two weeks. Any redness around the area should disappear within two to four weeks.
What is the recovery period like?
Immediately after surgery, you should avoid swimming, dishwashing, and other activities that might dampen the treated area. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully to avoid any possible complications or delayed healing.
What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
Most scars slowly fade with time. Applying sunscreen to the treated area may help keep any scarring remaining from darkening. Using sun-protection lotions and reducing exposure to the sun can lessen the risk of melanoma (a type of mole/skin cancer).
In general, the best candidates for mole removal are:
- Fair skinned
- Knowledgeable about the procedure
- In good physical and psychological health
- Wanting to improve their appearance and/or comfort
- Realistic in their expectations
- Not users of marijuana or anabolic steroids
- Not heavy users of alcohol
The above is only a partial list of the criteria that your surgeon will consider in determining whether or not this procedure is appropriate for you. Be sure to ask your surgeon if he / she considers you an ideal candidate for this surgery.
Each case is different, depending on the presence or absence of a cancerous condition. Discuss with your doctor what options you may have in addition to surgical mole removal.
Mole Removal Risks and limitations:
The risks associated with mole removal are minor. If the shaving method is used, there is a risk that the mole will grow back within several years following the removal. Elliptical excision can sometimes produce scarring, especially in younger children. However, if scarring does occur, it can be eliminated by cosmetic surgery or skin resurfacing techniques.
The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.
*Disclaimer: Costs source: According to the American Society f Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nationally in 2010. Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure. Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may also vary depending on location.