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HealthInfo Aoraki South Canterbury

Removal (excision) or biopsy of a skin lesion

A skin biopsy is when a doctor removes only a small part of a skin lesion for testing. A lesion is an area of damaged skin, like a mole, freckle, or spot. Excision is when the whole lesion is removed. In both cases, the skin is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist examines it under a microscope to find out if it's cancerous or not.

Many GPs are specially trained to remove skin lesions, so often your own doctor may be able to treat you. The cost of biopsy and excision varies between doctors, and the type and size of the lesion. You may be eligible for a subsidy to reduce the cost of the procedure. Talk to your GP about this.

If your doctor is not trained in removing skin lesions, or thinks your lesion is more complicated, they can refer you to another doctor who specialises in this procedure. This could be another GP who does skin excision surgery, or the General Surgery Department at Timaru Hospital.

A small number of people with skin cancer are suitable for Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery (or Mohs micrographic surgery) is a specialised technique. You may wish to pay to see a GP with special interest in skin surgery, private plastic surgeon or a private dermatologist about this. You can find a private dermatologist on Healthpoint.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical directors, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed May 2021.

See also:

Skin surgery and wound care

Page reference: 113848

Review key: HIMEL-15455