During a skin exam, your provider will look for any moles that might be, or could become, cancerous. If a mole looks suspicious, your provider will take a tissue sample (biopsy) for microscopic examination.
During your exam, you should also point out to your provider any moles that typically get irritated from shaving over or around them or from rubbing from a bra strap or underwear trim. You may want to have a mole in these locations removed. Anytime you have an irritated mole that remains swollen, regardless of its location, you should have it examined by your provider.
If the examination of a skin biopsy from a mole indicates that the mole is cancerous, your provider will do a surgical procedure to remove it. Mole removal is a quick procedure done on an outpatient basis. Your provider will numb the area around the mole, then cut the mole out, along with a margin of healthy skin if necessary. The procedure may leave a permanent scar. Sometimes a laser treatment over the scar will make it less visible.
If you notice that a removed mole has grown back, you should see your doctor promptly.
It is a good idea to have a skin check by your provider or a dermatologist once a year. When looking over your skin, your provider might ask the following questions about various moles and other skin markings:
- Do you know how long you have had this particular mole?
- Have you noticed any changes in the color or shape of this mole?
- Have you had any other moles removed? Were any malignant?
- Do you have a family history of atypical moles, melanoma, or any other cancers?
- Have you had peeling sunburns in your past from the sun or tanning beds?
Epidermoid cysts are noncancerous small bumps that appear beneath the skin. They are most common on the face, neck, and trunk, although they can appear anywhere on your skin. They are typically slow-growing and can be painless, but you might want to have a cyst removed if it becomes painful, ruptured, infected, or unseemly.
Signs and symptoms of an epidermoid cyst include:
- Round, small bump under the skin, usually on the face, neck, or trunk
- Tiny blackhead plugging up the central opening
- Thick, yellow, smelly material draining from the cyst
- Redness, swelling, and tenderness in the area
How does a cyst develop?
Your skin has a thin, protective layer of cells (your epidermis) that continuously sheds. Cysts develop when these cells move deeper into your skin and multiply instead of sloughing off as they usually do. They can form a circular wall and secrete the protein keratin into the interior. This keratin is the thick, yellow substance that you sometimes see draining from the cyst.
This abnormal growth of cells may be due to a damaged hair follicle or oil gland in your skin or an injury to your skin.
Many people erroneously refer to epidermoid cysts as sebaceous cysts, but they are not the same. Sebaceous cysts are less common and arise from the glands that secrete oily matter that lubricates hair and skin (sebaceous glands).
Most epidermoid cysts do not cause problems or need treatment, but you should see your healthcare provider if you have a cyst that:
- Grows very rapidly
- Ruptures or becomes painful or infected
- Occurs in a location that constantly causes irritation such as a bra line, finger or toe, shaving or hair-brushing spots
- Bothers you for cosmetic reasons
Complications that can develop from epidermoid cysts include:
- Inflammation. A cyst can become tender and swollen even if not infected. Once inflamed, they are difficult to remove, and your provider will postpone removal until the inflammation has calmed down.
- Rupture. Ruptured cysts often lead to boil-like infections that need prompt treatment.
- Infection. Cysts can become infected (abscessed).
- Skin cancer. In very rare cases, epidermoid cysts can lead to skin cancer.
Anyone can develop epidermoid cysts, but the following variables make someone more susceptible: being past puberty, having a genetic predisposition, or injuring your skin.