"Watching" a Mole

Updated on February 20, 2015
R.M. asks from Evanston, IL
12 answers

As you know, I have a lot of health anxiety.. I had my 6 month skin check (history of one non-melanoma skin cancer and one removal with atypical cells) and the dermatologist said that she wanted me to "keep an eye" on one spot on my chest (a flat brown mole). This of course has sent me into panic and I went pouring through old photo albums to look at it and I discovered that although I have had it for at least 13 years or more, it got larger and darker after the birth of my youngest about 6 years ago. It has looked just like it does now for at least the last 2-3 years. Has anyone else been given this advice to just keep an eye on something? Shouldn't I just have her take it out? It would mean a punch biopsy with a stitch but I went reading on melanoma sites and got myself all worked up thinking that if I wait and watch I am going to be dead in 3 months. I asked her if she thought it should just come off now and she said no, that she wasn't that concerned with it but that the borders are a little borderline strange so lets "keep and eye on it." I keep swaying between taking her advice and running back to have it removed. What would you do?

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answers from San Francisco on

If you are going to obsess over it, then maybe it might be best to have it removed, even though it's not melanoma or cancerous at this point in time. If it were, the doctor would not have said just to keep an eye on it.

Every time I have some little skin thing removed these days, I scar pretty heavily. I don't really care, but just be forewarned.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Anchorage on

I have several I have been told to keep an eye on over the years, and several more that have been removed on the spot, it all depends on the mole. If it changes quickly, gets much darker, or becomes itchy, then consider having it removed, but otherwise I would not worry about it. I still have a few I have been "watching" for 10+ years, but since no significant or quick changes have occurred we just keep watching.

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answers from Washington DC on

i'm fine with just watching mine. i prefer minimal medical intervention unless necessary.
but i'm not a worrier. if this has you in a panic, you probably need to discuss it with your doctor, both to address the mole AND the panic.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would mention to her the change of color and your concern about just wanting it removed. It is not that hard to remove, and it might give you the peace of mind you need.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

It depends. If it is something that causes you continual stress and anxiety, it might be worth removing, even if it is nothing and would never turn into anything at all.

But, if you can manage your worries a bit, then I'd do what is suggested by the dermatologist and "keep an eye on it." Take a couple of pictures of it (from different angles, close up, and with a ruler or something to be able to measure it in the photo). Then compare it once a month or whatever to your photos. Print and Date your photos, don't just rely on your phone or whatever to keep them in memory.

It is fairly normal for pregnancy and all the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy and the post-partum period to cause some skin changes. For some people it is just dark spots. I have one on my left cheek that I never noticed until several years after my kids were born. As I aged, it became more apparent. But it isn't anything... just a darker patch of skin, also commonly referred to I believe as a "pregnancy patch"....

If you've had it for 13 years, it isn't doing much if it only changed colors during pregnancy. I have a few small ones that are flat and have all the "classic" signs that online sources tell you to be careful of: irregular edges, varying colors within the same spot, not being a regular shape (asymmetrical... I have one that is an asymmetrical almost heart shape), etc. But they have been examined and are nothing. I did have ONE biopsied as a precaution, and not one I would have thought was concerning... it was nothing.

But, for the most part, I was oblivious to most of my moles until I actually went into the dermatologist about a rough spot on my nose. They did a whole body check while I was there. I was a little freaked by how many moles I actually have! I didn't realize. But then, none of them seemed new, either. I've just had them for years and never paid any attention to them. They do seem to have become more prominent maybe as I've aged. Darker.

So, if you can follow instructions and just keep an eye on it, do that. If you see any changes (and document it right now so you will KNOW if they are actual changes and not your imagination at work) call/go in. If you cannot stop the worry or anxiety over it... then see if they'll just remove it, AND what the instructions will be once they have removed it. If they still will want you to monitor something, it doesn't seem like it will solve your anxiety problem..

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answers from Boston on

I think your anxiety is worth the time it takes to make a call to the doctor to discuss. You have a number of other posts in which your anxiety is heightened, and of course you have a health history that makes you hyper vigilant. So the middle ground is probably the best.

I had several moles removed years ago - the doctor went for them pretty quickly even though they had been pretty stable for a number of years. They were larger than they were maybe 10 years before, but they weren't growing quickly. My husband has tons of moles, and most of them are in the "let's watch them" category. I think he only had 1 or 2 removed in the past few decades. One was growing fairly quickly but turned out to be benign. Everything else has been benign or at least very stable. A neighbor found that her mole changed after childbirth -- not sure if it was the hormones, or just a fluke as with mine.

I don't know if insurance company guidelines are at play here. I always wondered if my moles were removed because they needed to be, or if the doctor wanted the money! I had another doctor many years ago (my husband used the same one) who kept people waiting forever, just (I think) to stack the waiting room with paying customers. He did excessive tests for no reason - I can see a baseline EKG but, with no problems, I don't know why he did them on so many visits. I think it was to get the insurance money. So your doctor may be following typical medical or insurance guidelines which are urging caution and restraint instead of removing every single mole on every single patient when the vast majority are absolutely benign. If your doctor is either photographing or measuring your moles and drawing a little sketch about size & location, then she's probably on top of it.

I have found that the stress we put on ourselves is usually far worse than the condition we are worried about. You mentioned before that you take supplements for anxiety. If you aren't getting results, or if they are making you worse, or if you are mixing and matching them on your own without specific advice from a knowledgable source, you may be making yourself more agitated from a bad combination. I work in the food science field and I see a whole lot of use of insufficiently or inaccurately labeled supplements - there have been major reports from the FDA on this issue. So be sure you are getting reliable advice here.

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answers from Amarillo on

I have had a couple of moles my whole life. I have one that got a bit darker after my daughter but that was it. The outside lines never changed and I check it out a few times a year.

Stop worrying over things you have no control. If you don't you will wind up in the Looney bin. Follow the advice of your doctor. Stay off the internet about what to look for. Learn to live your life for each day.

As others have said, if you bothers you that much, have it removed and have the stitch or two and you won't worry over this but you will find something to take its place.

Are you taking anything for this anxiety? It might be time to do so if you are not. Take it get yourself balanced out and then you can possibly reduce or come off your medication.

the other S.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Oh geeze, yeah. Pretty much all my moles. I have ton. I go to the dermatologist every year to get them looked over. I've had some removed here and there, my mom had a melanoma removed and a couple of my sisters have had really dicey looking moles removed.

Did she take a picture of it? maybe that would make you feel better, then the doctor is the one in charge of watching it and remembering what it is supposed to look like instead of you. And go twice a year if it will make you feel better. Or three times, til you get reassured it isn't changing and it's fine.

Honestly, having been to several dermotologists for mole checks over the years myself, you could go to a different one next week who might have ZERO concern about that particular mole. I had one a few years ago who was slice-happy and would remove anything I didn't like. But you have to trust that your derm knows you and your situation and would not hesitate on removing something that wasn't ok.

If I were you (not me as you, but you as you) I would have it removed for peace of mind. Since it bothers you. But I am not scared of small office procedures, maybe you are, and then you have to weight that too.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

After reading your numerous questions since January I see that you're extremely anxious. I wonder why you haven't seen a mental health professional. I have anxiety issues that are not nearly as life changing as yours are. I am so very glad that I saw a psychiatrist when I was in my late twenties. I went because I was depressed. This was long before medications were available. Just talking with the doctor helped me change the way I acted based was based on the way I thought. I learned that I could make changes that made my life more enjoyable. Along the way I learned that I was also anxious. Both my depression and anxiety were caused by a combination of my experiences with changes in my brain caused by chronic depression and fear. Along with those I learned that there may be a genetic link or that living with a chronically depressed mother and/or genetics put me at risk for anxiety and depression. As I gained an understanding of anxiety and depression I did begin to feel better. Once I started taking ssri meds I actually became happy. It's been a long journey. I'm very, very glad I got help. I live my life in much more successful ways.

Time has given validity to the success of medication. I urge you to try it. Doing so doesn't mean a life long commitment. You can stop if the meds don't he you. Please make an appointment with a mental health specialist to discuss this possibility. An appointment is not a commitment. Explore that possibility.

I especially urge you to do this for your children's sake. If there had been help available to my mother I might not have had this life long struggle.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My mom started getting anxious about ten years ago. We all thought she was overreacting, being unreasonable, and then we realized it was keeping her up at night. I think she was feeling out of control. She couldn't let things go.

Sounds like your worry is really causing you to obsess a little bit. By the time you worry about things you don't really need to (I'm sure the doctor would suggest removing your moles if there really was a concern), I think anxiety should be treated. It will greatly improve your life.

My mother takes a little 1/2 pill and she has a grip on life, and enjoys it now. She doesn't like taking medications (one of those!) but she tried it and realized how much easier life was to handle when her fears were under control. She's happy again.

I have a very mole-ridden family. I have had two removed myself, on my face. Doctors are very cautious when they check moles - I'm sure if there was anything to worry about, they would have recommended to have it taken off. Especially where you have a history of atypical cells. They removed mine just because they had grown (just with age, they were not abnormal in the end) so they don't leave them if there is any chance they could be problematic.

And my whole family is told to watch our moles. I think they tell everyone that these days. All my friends and their husbands watch their moles too. It's with the rise in skin cancers - it's just become part of check ups around here. I get mine looked at routinely with pap exams. Same with my kids. One of mine has a huge mole that's a bit fuzzy. We're just learning to love it (it's on her tummy).

So - I agree with others. Ask about anti-anxiety medication first and be honest with your doctor about how much this is bothering you (and your other concerns). I have taken 1/2 pill of anti-anxiety meds for procedures such as MRIs, etc. to help deal with the stress.

And if you are still worrying about these moles in say 2 weeks, then by all means, if you want to - have them removed. The only negative is that you can be left with a minimal scar.

Hope that helps :) good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

I know this will be hard for you to do, but BREATHE....

What would **I** do? I would BREATHE...then call the doctor and tell her that I've noticed a change and ask for an appointment. Let them do their tests and be done with it.

Worrying over this is NOT going to change anything. You CAN take action. And that is picking up the phone and calling the doctor for an appointment.

The next thing you need to do is STOP using Google to get a diagnosis. STOP. You are an adult. You already know you have anxiety issues and you do stuff to ONLY make it worse? STOP. Just GO TO THE DOCTOR.

That is the ONLY way you will know for sure.

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answers from Chicago on

My dermatologist had two things removed last time I went. One on my temple, just in my hairline - I got an alarming "hmmmm...how long have you had this?" when he saw that one. It was irregular borders and colors. He took a biopsy.

He also said a mole on my back was "not like all the others" due to the borders. He said I should keep an eye on it, but I can't see back there, not close enough to tell changes anyway. My husband could look for me, but if it's not blinking or glowing or bleeding it's fine as far as he is concerned. I had him take the mole off and it was biopsied.

Both came back normal. Your dermatologist is very familiar with melanoma, but if you are worried have him remove it. It's not a big deal to take it off and it sounds like it will save you a lot of anxiety - well worth the stitch and mild, temporary discomfort.

1 mom found this helpful
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