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A punch biopsy is a medical procedure usually done to check for skin or cervical cancer. During this, a cylinder of skin is removed with a tube-like cutting tool. The resulting skin sample contains the epidermis, dermis, and fat tissue from beneath the skin. It can be a very uncomfortable procedure and recovery may take several days to several weeks, depending on the test zone. Patients can reduce discomfort and speed recovery by keeping the area clean, wearing the proper clothing over it, and avoiding certain activities.
In addition to knowing how to care for the wound after the procedure, there are several things patients can do beforehand to help them recover from a punch biopsy. Some doctors recommend taking medication before the appointment to help relieve pain. Patients may also gently rub lotion into the area to be tested, keeping it soft and supple. Supple skin is easier for the doctor to stretch and stitch back together. An elliptical wound is often easier to suture than a circular one, so softening the skin makes it more likely that the wound will form a narrow ellipse.
Those receiving a punch biopsy on their arms, legs, or torso often have a relatively easy recovery period. These patients should keep the stitches dry and gently clean the area with a soft, clean cloth. They should also avoid clothing featuring stretch materials, such as exercise pants, swimsuits, or tight shirts. When the stitches are removed, cleaning the area with a mild saline solution usually helps the sutured wounds close and heal without infection. Applying a skin-nourishing lotion, such as one infused with vitamin E, often helps reduce and fade scarring over time.
Patients undergoing a cervical or vulvar punch biopsy may have longer recovery times. In these cases, the tissue sample is taken from the inside the vagina, an area with plenty of mucus membranes. These tissues is often so soft that additional softening may not be required. Patients should speak to their doctors about this.
Urination may be painful or irritating after a vulva punch biopsy, so patients need to care for the area after each visit to the bathroom. Irrigating with a squirt bottle full of saline or plain water often does the trick, and the patient should also pat the area dry with a clean cloth. Patients should typically wear loose cotton briefs or boxer shorts, lining them with sanitary pads if bleeding occurs. Running, sexual intercourse, and stretching should also be avoided until the wound heals. Those that see excessive bleeding or fluid discharge should contact their doctors immediately.