Skin Cancer Removal
There are many different procedures used to treat skin cancer. The technique chosen is based on a number of factors including the type of skin cancer that the patient has, the location of the cancer, the aggressiveness of the skin cancer, how deeply it has grown or spread, and the patient’s overall health.
Surgical procedures are the most commonly used treatments for the removal of skin cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove all traces of the cancer and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.
- Excision – In this technique, the skin cancer plus a margin of healthy tissue is marked and anesthetized using local injections. An elliptical- (“football”) shaped piece of tissue, including the cancer and margin, is removed and the wound is stitched back together, usually with a layer of buried dissolving stitches and a layer of surface stitches that need to be removed after one to two weeks.
- Mohs Surgery – This technique is similar to excision, however, the removed skin is examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells during the surgery while you wait. If cancer cells are seen, the surgeon removes another layer of skin, and so forth until no traces of cancer cells are evident on the excised tissue. Mohs surgery is a technique commonly used on the face to clear the cancer while removing as little skin as possible.
- Electrodessication and Curettage – This technique for the removal of skin cancer is most effective in treating small basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, most often on the body, not the face. The tumor is removed using a special scraping instrument called a curette, then an electric needle is used to gently cauterize the remaining cancer cells and some of the normal looking tissue around the treated area. This scraping and cauterizing process is usually repeated three times for a thorough removal.
Nonsurgical treatments are also available for the removal of skin cancer and are utilized for different reasons. In some cases, the cancer is thin enough to be treated successfully with topical therapy. In others, the cancer is in a location where excision with an adequate surgical margin is not possible, like the edge of the eyelid near the lashes.
- Immunotherapy uses a cream applied topically to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to actively fight the cancer.
- Cryosurgery is a technique used to freeze and destroy treatment areas causing the cancer cells to be sloughed off with the skin.
- Topical chemotherapy is used to destroy the cancer cells on the skin. As the skin heals, new skin cells will appear in its place.
- Photodynamic therapy is a two-phase technique that, first, makes use of a special chemical applied directly onto the skin to increase its sensitivity to light, and then is followed by light exposure to destroy the cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy is used to treat patients for the removal of skin cancers that have spread over a large area and have become difficult to remove surgically or in locations where surgical removal isn’t feasible. Radiation therapy requires repeated exposures to gradually destroy the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy is systemic treatment utilized when the cancer spreads beyond the skin.