Why would a biopsy of the skin be done?

A biopsy is done to diagnose a skin condition, disease or cancerous growth. It is also done for moles which have changed colour and lumps or growths that are painful or worrisome. By taking a sample of the skin, Dr Muthambi can treat and test the sample for abnormalities. It may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and find treatment for skin conditions such as skin tags, suspicious moles and growths, warts, actinic keratosis, blistering skin disorders, dermatitis or psoriasis, and skin cancers (including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma).

How is a skin biopsy done?

Using a local anaesthetic the area of skin is numbed with an injection. If the lump or skin is deeper, you may be put under general anaesthetic for the biopsy. The following types of biopsies may be done for skin conditions:

Shave biopsy – the top layers of the skin are removed for sample using a razor-type tool.

Punch biopsy – a circular tool is used to take a deeper section of the skin.

Excisional biopsy – this procedure is done using a small knife to remove a section of skin or lump including the fatty layer beneath it.


The incision is then closed with absorbable stitches and done to make it as cosmetically appealing as possible so that the scar is small and as unnoticeable as possible. Depending on the size and depth of the biopsy taken, you may have a scar. You will be instructed on how to care for the biopsy site afterwards to make the scar minimally visible and prevent infection.

What will happen after the biopsy?

Depending on what type of biopsy is done, Dr Muthambi will be able to determine the treatment of the skin condition with the results that come back from the laboratory. Once he knows the condition, he will be able to refer you back to your general practitioner for treatment. If cancer cells are present your treatment may be referred to a dermatologist and oncologist.

It is essential to contact Dr Muthambi if you experience any of the following symptoms as emergency care may be needed:

  • High temperature or chills
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling around the incisions
  • Bleeding from the wound
  • Extreme pain

What are the potential risks and complications a biopsy on the skin?

  • Tenderness around the biopsy site
  • Bleeding
  • Infection