How Much Does a Skin Biopsy Cost?

Limited amounts of Vitamin D, exfoliation, moisturizers, and the use of sunscreen are just some of the ways that you can help take care of your skin.  To get confirmation that your skin is in a healthy state, it’s helpful to see your dermatologist on a routine basis.  If any areas are alarming, your dermatologist may opt to do a skin biopsy.  At the thought of any procedure, you might find yourself worried about the outcome plus how much it’s going to cost you.

On average, the cost of a skin biopsy is $400.  Having insurance is the most cost-effective means of having a biopsy performed as you’ll likely only be responsible for your copay, which could be as little as $25.  Without insurance, however, fees could amount to as much as $800.

How much does a skin biopsy cost?

The cost of a skin biopsy varies based on a multitude of factors.  For example, with insurance, you may only be responsible for your copay.  On average, you’re looking at about $400.

Alternatively, an uninsured person could have a relatively simple biopsy performed with an office-provided one-time discount and spend just a couple of hundred dollars.  However, more complex procedures for the uninsured plus possible lab fees will increase the cost.

How much does a skin biopsy cost without insurance?

If covered by insurance, and if the procedure is considered routine and simple, a skin biopsy will likely cost you about $125-$300 out of pocket.  

This estimate is general and inclusive of both the office visit and the procedure charge.  However, additional lab fees could bring the cost up to around $800.

Always make your provider aware of your insurance situation.  Often, private offices can extend a one-time discount to uninsured persons to help alleviate billing concerns.

How much does a skin biopsy cost with insurance?

This will depend on your insurance plan, your deductible (if applicable), and whether or not the specialist you choose to see is considered in-network.  In most cases, you are only responsible for paying your copay.  For most, this is probably somewhere around $25-$40.

Note that the copay is probably higher than what’s anticipated when visiting your general healthcare provider visit since you are seeing a specialist.

Whether you have insurance or not, keep in mind that concerning results from the biopsy itself will likely lead to further recommendations and potentially more procedures that will come at an additional cost.

How much does it cost to remove cancer?

The cost associated with removing cancer in any fashion will vary greatly and will depend largely on your insurance coverage or lack thereof.  Depending on your deductible, your out-of-pocket expenses could be anywhere from a few thousand dollars up through $150,000.  

Factors include the type of cancer, the preferred type of treatment, how frequent the treatment occurs, and any additional lab or private cancer center usage fees.  Unresponsive treatment attempts will result in additional methods and therefore increased costs.

Should I worry about a skin biopsy?

It’s normal to enter into any procedure with some concern.  After all, it’s not called a “comfort zone” for nothing and having your skin removed doesn’t typically fall into this area.

Rest assured, healthcare providers are not always able to determine whether or not an area of concern is definitely threatening or cancerous without additional testing being performed.  In order for that testing to occur in a laboratory, a biopsy must take place first.

The procedure is usually minimal in terms of pain as dermatologists will provide you with a numbing agent to reduce irritation.

What percentage of skin biopsies are cancer?

A little less than half (~44%) of skin biopsies performed end in malignant, or cancerous, indications.

That means that more than half of all skin biopsy results come back benign, or non-cancerous.  Because the odds are in your favor, it’s important to not get in yourself worked up over what could be totally normal results.

Prepare yourself and educate yourself with the possibility of there being something to further address, but try to find comfort in knowing that it’s more likely to be a malignant situation.

Does a skin biopsy mean cancer?

A skin biopsy does not automatically indicate that cancer is present.  As you age, you acquire new growths, such as moles, and your skin changes just as your body changes.  This is totally normal.

Changes in skin can be due to age, reactions to your surroundings, or food you consume.  They can also be attributed to time spent in the sun.

Less than half of all biopsies performed indicate cancerous conditions, so the odds are in your favor.

What does a skin biopsy check for?

Skin biopsies can be helpful in providing diagnoses for conditions such as infection, cancer, allergies, or disorders.

Often, biopsies are recommended when tests performed during check-up presented an area of concern.  This is usually due to an abnormal event such as a growth or changes to an existing growth.

For this reason, your provider may ask you if you’ve noticed any changes in your skin growths, especially since your last visit.  Those areas would be a priority for review.

How painful is a skin biopsy?

Skin biopsies can vary in pain depending on the area in question and how sensitive it is.  

In general, dermatologists typically use a numbing agent that will freeze the skin so that you do not feel much of the actual skin removal tool.

Upon completion, you may experience soreness and redness in the area.  Your healthcare provider will likely advise that the pain and redness is short-lived but that you can likely use over-the-counter pain relievers to speed up the process.

Can I shower after a skin biopsy?

You can shower after a skin biopsy, but know that the area  in question may be a bit sensitive.  Depending on how deep-seeded your skin concern had been, with potentially several layers of skin being freshly removed, you are now exposing underlayers to the outside for the first time.  

You should avoid using more harsh products, such as those that contain fragrances, and use mild soap or unscented body wash.  Also be sure to avoid more intense skin regimens, such as exfoliation.

Can you die from skin cancer?

All cancers are potentially deadly since cancerous cells have the opportunity to spread throughout your body and impact your organs differently.

As a result, skin cancer can be fatal.  However, catching emerging skin cancer early on increases your opportunity for treatment and successful removal of the cells early on, which is why it is imperative to have annual check-ups with your dermatologist.

Is skin cancer covered by insurance?

Whether or not skin cancer is present would be determined by the laboratory and provided back to you in the form of results, probably by both the lab and your dermatologist.  

If skin cancer is present, further procedures will be recommended by your healthcare provider.

Cancer of any kind and its treatment options will vary based on its severity, but most avenues are largely covered by most insurance plans.

What are the ABC’s of skin cancer?

There are five characteristics that both you and your healthcare provider can consider when eye-balling a potentially cancerous mole.  Based on these characteristics, your provider may choose to recommend you for a skin biopsy:

  • A: Asymmetry.  Moles that are asymmetric can cause concern.
  • B: Border. Uneven outer edges could be cause for concern.
  • C: Color. Moles are often neutral in tone, while brown, red, and skin-colored growths are also typically normal.  Moles of any other color could be indicative of a more serious issue.
  • D: Diameter.  Generally, moles larger than 6 mm, or the size of an eraser-head, could indicate a more serious condition.
  • E: Evolving.  Moles that remain consistent are probably normal growths, while those that continue to change or grow over time probably need a closer look in a laboratory to eliminate any possibly cancerous conditions.

You should always proactively be checking your own body for moles that have these sort of qualifications.

If you happen to notice any of these occur within a growth on your body, you should set up an appointment with your healthcare provider in order to review your concerns.

What happens during a skin biopsy?

During a skin biopsy, your dermatologist will use a special tool to remove a small sample of skin from the area of concern for further testing.  Some motivators for skin biopsies include concerns over skin cancer, disorders, or infections.  Most biopsies can be performed within your dermatologist’s office.

Skin biopsies can be performed with several different tools. The tool ultimately used will be decided by your dermatologist and will vary based on the area of the concern as well as how difficult it is to retrieve a sample from that area.

The sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing and your results are usually available within a week.

What tools are used during a skin biopsy?

There are three different types of tools that could be used during your skin biopsy.  The area and complexity of the skin in concern will determine which tool is utilized by your dermatologist:

  • A scalpel is used to remove skin during an excisional biopsy
  • A shave biopsy earns its name through the use of a razor blade
  • A punch biopsy requires the use of a precise, circular tool

What should I wear to a skin biopsy?

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Skin biopsies are often minor, so they can usually be performed in the comfort of your dermatologist’s office or some other out-patient facility.

Regardless of what you choose to wear, you will likely be encouraged to change into a gown so that your provider can easily access the area in question.

What can I expect after a skin biopsy?

Following a skin biopsy, you will likely be provided with a covering that should be worn or updated until the area fully heals.

You should be able to return to your normal routine upon leaving your healthcare provider’s office, but be sure to take extra care to the overly sensitive hour for at least 24 hours following the procedure.

While you can shower, remember that the area is particularly sensitive since the skin that remains is newly exposed.

Pain from the numbing agent or the biopsy itself should subside shortly after your appointment.  Ask your provider if you can take over-the-counter medication to alleviate any headache or pain experienced following the procedure.  

How long do skin biopsy results take?

Once the tissue has been shared with a laboratory, a pathologist will then examine the sample under a microscope to determine any conditions or red flags.  

The results of this examination usually come back within 1-2 weeks.  While the results are often shared directly with your provider who will then share the findings with you, you may also have access to these results if you have a personal account with the testing center.

However, it is not recommended that you review these results without the guidance of your provider.  Coupled with nervousness, analyzing medical terminology on your own can be confusing, nerve-wracking, and inconclusive.

Final thoughts

Though the cost of skin biopsies varies per situation, there’s never truly a cost that you can place on your health.  In fact, the cost of the biopsy for the area in question and any recommended follow-up procedures should merely be looked to as investments in your personal health and best interest.

It’s imperative to keep an eye on your body throughout the year, especially in between annual visits with your dermatologist.  Since cancerous situations are best treated when recognized early on, you have an increased chance of catching and resolving cancerous concerns the more often you proactively visit your dermatologist.  

An annual check-up is recommended and those who suffer from actual skin conditions may be encouraged to visit even more frequently.

Heading in for a skin biopsy is a bit out of routine and is likely to induce some anxiety.  It’s helpful to know what to expect and part of that is getting a good idea of how much the procedure is going to cost and alleviate that concern beforehand.  

This way, you can focus on asking your dermatologist questions more applicable to your health, the procedure itself, and next steps.

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