Dermatologist office

Dermatologists and Dentists: Biopsy Fatigue

I am not a huge fan of going to see the dentist. The high-pitched drill, the pain, the needles: it’s all a bit too much at times. I don’t mind the cleanings and all. Who doesn’t like the goodie bag with floss and a new toothbrush? Yet, the rest of it is not too much fun. Most people I know feel the same way. If I am being honest, I feel the same way about going to see the dermatologist. There are no goodie bags.

That dreaded “B” word

I associate going to see the dermatologist with pain, scars, stitches, wounds and fear. I just don’t like to go. I always feel that there is about a 90% chance that I will come back with having been cut on, burned, or simply prodded. It’s probably is not that high, but it just feels that way.

When I go to the dermatologist, I wait in anticipation for the dreaded “b” word. That word is “biopsy” and for those of us who have had melanoma and who see our dermatologists on a regular basis, we are tired of that word and what it means for us.

Making it less scary

Much like avoiding the dentist, I do believe that people run from the dermatologist for similar reasons. I now see many tooth doctors who are positioning themselves as the purveyors of “pain-free” dentistry and I have wondered if there was anything on the horizon that could do the same for skin doctors. Could there possibly be ways to make going to see a dermatologist more palatable and less “scary”?

Biopsy fatigue

The other day I spoke with Dr. John Dobak, the Chief Executive Officer of DermTech in La Jolla, California. John and I went to school together years ago and beyond just catching up, I was interested in his research, findings, and solutions to the problems I just described.

We talked about the fear of going to see a dermatologist that many have. John described it as a larger part of what he calls “biopsy fatigue.” This affects both patients and physicians. According to the John, 95% of all biopsies looking for possible melanoma are negative. Of course, that is a good thing. Patients don’t want the scalpel and doctors don’t want to order unnecessary tests.

Unintended consequences?

Of course my thoughts are that everyone should see a dermatologist regularly, especially if they have a history of skin cancer or have something suspicious. It’s just that the pain associated with biopsies, that ends up being negative, may have the unintended consequence of keeping people from going to see the doctor in the first place and that’s a bad thing. John’s company has been working on that.

Better pathway

Without going into all the numbers and details, John described new, nearly pain free testing procedures (based on biotechnology) that his company has developed, which would allow for a more accurate “pathway” to proper diagnosis and lead to fewer biopsies. Would fewer biopsies because of better initial screening lead to less fear and more visits to the dermatologist? Intuitively, one would think that it would, if the public became aware of it.


I appreciate John and his company’s work and although I am not here to market their products and services, I think it is important to be aware of some of the breakthroughs that may help in catching melanoma early. I would encourage you to do your own research and ask your dermatologist about new technologies and procedures that will help us save lives. This is what is so great about this online community. We can all do our own research and share it with others.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.