There are four primary methods of mole removal that doctors or other medical professionals may use. The most common is surgery, in which the mole must be dug out of the skin with a scalpel or sharp knife. Small incisions will usually heal on their own, but larger cuts — typically those requiring stitches — can sometimes leave a mark or scar. Patients concerned about scarring often look into the second removal options, laser excision or radiosurgery, both of which are less invasive — but may not be appropriate for deep moles. Freezing and burning are also possibilities.
The technique that a health care provider chooses to use when removing a mole usually depends on the type of mole at issue. Moles are skin aberrations that are known scientifically as nevi, and they come in many different shapes, sizes, and types. Some simply look like large freckles, while others are raised off of the skin and form bumps; some are dangerous and can be signals or precursors of conditions like cancer, while others are just discolorations. Some removal methods are better than others depending on the type of nevi at issue.
Surgery is the most traditional way to remove moles, and it can be used for pretty much any variety or type. The word “surgery” sounds intimidating to a lot of people, but at least where moles are concerned, the procedure is usually very simple. Most of the time, the procedure can be performed quickly and easily in a single visit.
The doctor will typically numb the area surrounding the mole with a local or topical anesthetic, and will then remove the mark with a scalpel. In the case of raised moles, this often involves a bit of skin shaving or scraping. Moles that extend deep into the skin tissues are harder to get out, and often require stitches; in most cases, though, a simple bandage is all the wound needs to protect it while it heals. After a week or so, once the tissues have had a chance to repair themselves, the doctor will remove the bandage to check for re-growth and infection.
Lasers and Radiowaves
Some dermatologists perform laser excision and the related practice of radiosurgery as alternatives to scalpel work. Both of these techniques involve topical applications of heat or radio waves to isolate and eliminate the mole in question. These methods are touted as scar-free, pain-free ways to remove moles, but are usually only effective for certain types of blemishes. Those that are particularly large or that deeply penetrate the skin are not usually good candidates, and topical removals are rarely able to actually get rid of the entire mole in these cases. Though the skin’s surface may look clear after the procedure, people often see re-growth after a few weeks or months.
Small nevi can often be eradicated through a process known as “freezing” — usually just another name for cryotherapy. Doctors using this method will apply a small amount of liquid nitrogen, also known as dry ice, to the site of the blemish. Application must be precise, and as such, medical professionals typically use special applicators that let them both target the area and dispense only measured doses. The liquid nitrogen will cause the mole to swell and “bubble up,” but its cells will soon die and it will fall or flake off.
Cauterization, commonly known as “burning,” is another common way in which medical professionals remove moles. This method typically involves a small cauterization wand through which heat and electrical currents pass. Once the offending mole has been numbed, the doctor will press on it with the wand until the cells have died and the mole has shrunk or fallen off. Many patients report that cauterization is the most painful of all professional removal methods.
People who want to be rid of moles without seeing a doctor or dermatologist often try a range of home remedies, some of which are more effective than others. Many pharmacies sell topical “mole removal” creams or gels that can be applied like lotion. Some are specially formulated with ingredients like copper peptides, which are thought to promote healthy skin regeneration. While some people swear by these products, others find that they have basically no effect.
Homemade concoctions or therapies are also popular, though again, they tend to have mixed results. Medical experts usually discourage patients from being too aggressive on their moles at home, as some self-removal attempts can end up causing a lot of damage. This is particularly true where at-home freezing, shaving, and burning are concerned. Stubborn moles may only be able to be removed by a professional.
The Importance of Professional Mole Evaluation
In general, dermatologists recommend that even small moles be evaluated for signs of skin cancer or other potentially serious conditions before they are removed. Even moles that look benign or are generally not bothersome might be early indicators of something more dangerous. When medical professionals remove moles in the office, they typically send portions of the excised skin to a pathology lab for testing as a precaution. People who suffer from large moles, who notice a lot of new growths at once, or who think existing moles might be getting bigger are usually advised to get a professional opinion before engaging in any sort of self-removal program.