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Melanocytic Atypia
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Melanocytic Atypia

Recently, I had a biopsy done on the right side of my head, near my righ ear. The spot was hidden by the arm of my glasses. The Pathology report came back reading Melanocytic Atypia. I got a poor answer from my doctor on what it is. Can you shed some light on what exactly that means.
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Dean:

The term atypia is very ill-defined.  It depends on who reads the slide.  Basically, it means, "I think the cells look a little irregular," but to a significant extent that is a subjective judgment, and pathologists differ among themselves.  In my own practice, I work with an experienced dermatopathologist.  When she says, "mild atypia," I know what she means: forget about it.  If the cells look more disordered, she'll add:  "I recommend complete removal," just to be sure.

I assume your dermatologist has as much confidence in his skin pathologist as I do in mine.  If so, then just finding the word "atypia" in the biopsy report doesn't mean anything at all.  If you're uncertain, I'd put the question bluntly: "Look, does this thing have to come off or not?"  If thr answer is, No!" (as it surely will be, or else he would have called you back for more surgery), I would ignre thw whole matter and just go for whatever routine surveillance is planned anyway.

Hope this helps.

Dr. Rockoff
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