Cauterization is the medical technique of using heat to burn off tissue or to stop a wound from bleeding. It’s been used, often in very primitive ways, since time immemorial to help wounds heal.
Until recently, cauterization was thought to reduce the possibility of infection. Doctors now believe that the chance of infection is sometimes higher because of the damaged tissue. That makes aftercare extremely important, even when the wound is small. Mole cauterization can be an effective way to remove normal moles.
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Removing Moles With Cauterization
When it comes to mole removal, cauterization is used in one of two ways. Some moles can be removed by the direct application of heat to the surface of the mole, causing it to vaporize. Some moles must be either scraped off or cut out. Cauterization is then used to stop the bleeding. Nowadays the heat in the cautery tool is generated by electricity. Long ago, the heat came from a metal tool heated in a fire.
Cutting out, or excising, a mole is a surgical procedure. Depending on the size and kind of mole, as well as how deep it is, the surgical wound will be closed either with stitches or by cauterizing. Because cauterizing the wound after excising a mole involves both surgery and electricity, it’s often called electrosurgery. It’s also known as electrocautery whether the mole is excised or scraped off.
How is Cauterization Done?
The exact procedures followed in cauterization will vary from doctor to doctor. Your personal preferences will also be a factor, as well as the dimensions and kind of mole you have. Generally, the area around the mole must be scrupulously cleaned. Then a local anesthetic is injected to numb the area.
If simple cauterization is chosen, the cautery tool will touch the mole until it disappears. If the mole is to be either scraped off or excised, the cautery heat will be applied to the wound. An antibiotic will usually be applied to prevent infection.
Ask your doctor questions such as:
- What are my options?
- What are my risks?
- What are the potential complications?
- Will there be scarring?
Your questions about the doctor’s credentials or experience should be resolved before any procedure is done. A good doctor will not consider any of your questions or concerns frivolous or offensive.
Cauterization uses heat to vaporize tissue. A mole “vanishes” when cauterized. The skin beneath the mole is not injured, although it may be red for a few days. A scar does not form. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis in the doctor’s office and usually takes less than an hour. You are able to resume normal activities quickly as long as you’re careful to keep the area clean to avoid any possibility of infection.
The Cautery Tool
Doctors select from a variety of cautery tools according to their practice and personal preferences.
They may use a self-contained machine or use a pen that’s plugged into any electrical outlet. Both kinds usually have a selection of tips that allow the doctor to perform very precise cauterizations. Doctors also can choose the temperature to use, from about 600 to 1200+ degrees.
What Are the Benefits of Cauterization
Cauterizing a mole is quick and simple. It is less invasive and can be less expensive than other methods of mole removal. Your skin isn’t broken, so you heal sooner with far less risk of infection. It’s performed by a medical professional in a safe setting.
You’ll feel minimal pain during and after the procedure.
Cauterization of Excised Moles
Sometimes a mole must be surgically removed. The choice then is between scraping it off or cutting it out. The procedure depends mostly on whether the doctor believes there may be cancerous cells present. He or she may send a piece of the mole or surrounding skin to a lab for a biopsy to determine if it’s cancerous. If any cells are malignant, then the surgery must go deep enough to make sure they are all removed.
If the incision is large, it will then be closed with stitches rather than cauterized. If the mole can be scraped off, or the wound is small, it can be cauterized. Scraping and excision can leave scars although cauterization after the procedure usually results in a smaller scar. Both these procedures can be more painful and take longer to heal that cauterization alone.
How Safe Is Cauterization?
Cauterization is regarded as safe when performed by a qualified medical professional. The skill in using the cautery tool prevents burning of healthy tissue and lowers the risk of infection. Unless an excision was first performed, there is no break in the skin. Professionals will also ensure that there are no cancerous cells lurking within the mole.
Although it is possible to buy instruments that you can use to cauterize your moles at home, it is extremely unsafe to do so. You can burn more tissue than needed, you are more prone to infection, and you may end up with scarring that’s worse than the original mole.
Individuals have many non-medical reasons for wanting to have their moles removed. These include:
- Their moles get in the way of daily activities such as shaving.
- Their moles are irritated by clothing or jewelry rubbing against them.
- Their moles are in a location where they are easily injured.
- Their moles detract from their appearance.
Having their unsightly moles removed improves the self-esteem and confidence of many people.
If you have a mole that’s been examined so you know it’s benign, then having it cauterized can be a good choice. An instrument with a needle-like tip is placed against your mole after the area has been cleaned and anesthetized. The tip is heated to a specified temperature by electricity. The heat quickly burns off the mole, leaving the skin beneath and around it intact. It’s generally painless and doesn’t leave a scar. You will probably have a small scab that will fall off as the skin beneath it heals.
It’s a good idea to have a medical exam before cauterization to prevent unforeseen problems. Many medical conditions and medications aren’t a hindrance to mole removal, but it’s essential to let the doctor know what they are ahead of time. It’s also important that you inform the doctor of any allergies, especially if they involve anesthesia or antibiotics.
How Much Does Mole Cauterization Cost?
Unfortunately, there are too many factors involved for there to be a typical or average cost to have a mole cauterized. A mole on an exposed or delicate part of your body requires more precise techniques to minimize scarring, which increases the cost. The shape and size of the mole also influence the removal costs.
Biopsies can be expensive, especially if the doctor can’t do it in-house. Scraping or excision will significantly raise the cost. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons are more expensive, but their expertise may be preferable to that of a general practitioner. Finally, where you live will also be a factor as prices vary from rural to urban areas.
It’s important to have a consultation with the doctor before any procedures are performed. As well as details of what needs to be done to remove your moles, the consultation should also include a realistic estimate of the total cost. You should also consult your insurance company although many regard mole removal as cosmetic surgery and don’t pay for the procedures.
Aftercare Is Important
Your physician will give you aftercare instructions and it’s important for you to heed them. The instructions will depend on what procedure was done, but even the least invasive cauterization needs to be properly cared for.
In general, you must keep the area clean. Your doctor may tell you to use hydrogen peroxide to keep bacteria out. Once your scab has formed, it’s usually safe to moisturize the area. If your doctor doesn’t recommend a specific moisturizer, you can select your favorite from the many available. Moisturizing can help minimize scarring if your mole was excised or scraped off. Your doctor may also recommend a scar treatment cream.
It’s very important to avoid the sun. Sunshine can slow the healing process and increase the likelihood of scarring. It’s also the primary cause of moles.
If you must be in the sun, ask your doctor about the best sunscreen for you.
FINALLY: Nearly everyone has moles, most of which are harmless. Any mole that changes in any way, including becoming painful or bleeding should be examined by a specialist. Those most often must be removed to prevent deadly skin cancer, and cauterization may not be possible. For normal moles and other skin growths, cauterization can be a quick and easy way to eliminate them.