[3 min read] What to do when a partial biopsy of a suspected melanoma is performed

This month, we consider what to do when a partial biopsy of a suspected melanoma is performed.

The general advice is that if a punch or shave (partial) biopsy has been done, then an excision biopsy should be done before a formal wide-local excision. This is so that complete staging (of Breslow thickness) can be assured before the excision is done.

In a study by Doolan et al in Victoria, the authors show that in almost all cases, the staging evaluated by the partial biopsy is no different if a subsequent excision biopsy is done. However, in cases of desmoplastic and acral lentiginous melanomas, this was less true.

The key practice points here are:

  1. Always do a complete biopsy of a suspected melanoma if at all possible.
  2. If a partial biopsy is done for any reason, you will most likely get accurate staging from that partial biopsy (except for acral lentiginous and desmoplastic cases).

Professor David Wilkinson


Read more from Professor David Wilkinson on recent research:


Learn more about skin cancer medicine in primary care at the next Skin Cancer Certificate Courses:

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