• basal cell carcinoma;
  • diagnostic method;
  • local anaesthetic;
  • outpatient;
  • shave biopsy


Background  Diagnostic biopsy of basal cell carcinoma and other skin tumours may be necessary prior to definitive treatment.

Objectives  To assess whether shave biopsy sampling of tumours without local anaesthetic can provide adequate tissue to make an accurate histological diagnosis, and to determine whether any discomfort is associated with the technique.

Methods  One hundred and nine lesions from 99 patients were sampled by shave biopsy without local anaesthetic. Any discomfort associated with the procedure, and the adequacy of the histological specimen, were documented. The pathology diagnosis was also compared against the clinically suspected diagnosis.

Results  In 108 of the 109 lesions sampled, sufficient tissue was obtained to make an accurate histological diagnosis. In only six of the 109 procedures was any discomfort reported and in all cases this was rated as minor. A high correlation was found between histological diagnosis and initial clinical suspicion.

Conclusions  Shave biopsy without local anaesthetic is a simple, relatively pain-free method of obtaining tissue samples for histological diagnosis in appropriate tumours.