Surgery is often used to remove skin cancers, including most melanomas as well as basal and squamous cell skin cancers. The Dermatology and Skin Center of Southwest Florida will determine the surgery that is best for you based on the type of cancer you have, its location, its size and other factors that could affect the outcome. Surgical possibilities that we may suggest include:
- Surgical Excision: This method is used to remove the affected skin after your doctor already has confirmed a cancer diagnosis through a biopsy. It is most often used for large or deep tumors. After using a local anesthesia to numb the area, the doctor removes the tumor as well as a section of skin around its edges. This additional sample, called the margin, is later viewed under a microscope to ensure all the cancer cells have been removed. A relatively minor surgery, excision will cure most skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation: Curettage is when your doctor scrapes away basal carcinoma or squamous carcinoma cells with the sharp, looped edge of an instrument called a curette. Next, the doctor performs electrodesiccation by using another instrument called an electrode to produce an electric current that kills any cancer cells remaining in the margins. Usually, electrodesiccation is repeated once or twice during the same office visit. Curettage and electrodesiccation usually work best on pre-cancers that exist only in the top layers of skin. Sometimes another procedure called cryosurgery is used in conjunction with curettage. For this surgical method, the doctor uses extremely cold liquid or an instrument called a cryoprobe to freeze and destroy the abnormal or suspicious tissue.
- Slow Mohs surgery: This procedure is usually most successful in certain special situations, such as when there is a high risk of the cancer returning, when the extent of the cancer is unknown or when the cancer is located in a sensitive area, such as near an eye or on another prominent area of the face. Slow Mohs usually requires several procedures in which your doctor surgically excises a very thin layer of skin each time. After each procedure, the skin samples are sent off to a laboratory to be examined for cancer cells by a pathologist. If a skin sample is positive, you will return to the doctor for another excision within a few days. This process goes on until all margins are clear. While it can take several visits to remove all the cancer cells, slow Mohs is considered to have the highest success rate at ensuring a tumor is fully removed.
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