What Are They?
Several skin lesions are very common and almost always benign (non-cancerous). These conditions include moles, freckles, skin tags, benign lentigines, and seborrheic keratoses. However, it is always recommended to see a doctor if a mole or skin lesion appears later in your life, or if it starts to change size, color, or shape.
Moles are skin growths made up of cells that produce colour (pigment). A mole can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. Most people get a few moles during their first 20 years of life. They are usually brown in colour but can be blue, black, or flesh-coloured. Most moles are harmless and don’t cause pain or other symptoms unless you rub them or they bump against something, however, moles are the most commonly examined for cancer if changes are detected.
Skin tags are small, soft pieces of skin that stick out on a thin stem. They most often appear on the neck, armpits, upper trunk, and body folds. The cause of skin tags is not known. They are harmless.
Warts are skin growths caused by some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts form when the virus infects the top layer of your skin and causes your skin cells to grow very fast. Warts can often spread when you come in contact with the virus. You can infect yourself again when you touch the warts and then touch another part of your body, and you could also infect others when you share towels, razors, or other personal items.
Keratoses are brown or black growths usually found on the chest and back, as well as on the head. These lesions usually start off as small, rough bumps, and they gradually get thicker and develop a warty surface. Actinic keratoses are pre-malignant growths, while seborrheic keratoses are not pre-malignant.
Epidermoid Cysts are closed sac-like or capsule structures that may be filled with semisolid material, gaseous material, or liquid and can also be made up of a protein called keratin and fat. They usually appear on the face, neck, or upper body, especially the chest and shoulders. They erupt for many reasons, most often because of acne or mild skin injuries. (When they are formed because of swelling around hair follicles, they are called pilar cysts).
Types of Treatment
The most suitable treatment plan for these conditions will depend on our findings during your initial mole mapping consultation.
During this session, we assess each mole with a dermoscope, taking digital pictures to determine whether any cancerous lesions or moles are present. If cancer is suspected, we will do a shaving (biopsy) or a partial or complete removal, and send it for lab testing. If it comes back positive, meaning it is cancerous, the entire mole and area around it need to be removed to get rid of the dangerous cells.
Other treatments to remove moles, skins tags and other lesions include:
- Cutting it off (surgical excision). Skin tags may be snipped off with a scalpel or surgical scissors. Some moles can be “shaved” off flush with the skin. Other moles may have cells that go underneath the skin, so your doctor might make a deeper cut to remove the entire mole and prevent it from growing back. This treatment is carried out under local anaesthetic to reduce discomfort and may require stitches.
- Freezing it with liquid nitrogen. Your doctor will swab or spray a small amount of super-cold liquid nitrogen on the area. The damaged cells are removed and replaced by healthier cells. You might have a small blister after treatment, but this will heal on its own.
- Burning it off (with cautery). An electric current passes through a wire that becomes hot and is used to burn off the upper layers of the skin. You may need more than one treatment. The heat helps prevent bleeding.
- Burning it off (with Salicylic Acid). This is a highly concentrated acidic solution that is carefully applied to lesions such as warts, it is less painful than liquid nitrogen but in experienced hands can lead to the elimination of warts in a similar time frame.
- Scarless excision with laser. We use the FOTONA Erbium:YAG laser for mole removal. The treatment is carried out with an injection of local anaesthetic to reduce discomfort and the laser quickly and easily ablates the mole. The treated area will appear red after treatment, but this should be temporary and you will be given advice on how to care for the treated area.