Squamous Cell and Basal Cell Skin Cancer Treatment Part 1: Surgical Options
Skin Cancer Care Specialists | April 4, 2018
To treat basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, surgery is a common option. Depending on several factors, like the type and size of a patient’s skin cancer, a variety of surgical techniques may be considered for treatment. Most of these surgeries are outpatient procedures, involving only local anesthesia and performed in a clinic or doctor’s office.
Here are some of the more common procedures:
- Excision is the removal of a previously diagnosed tumor through basic surgery. After a local anesthetic is used to numb the affected area, the practitioner cuts out the tumor and some of the surrounding skin with a surgical knife and then stiches up the remaining skin. This procedure leaves a scar.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation, especially good for superficial skin cancers, is a treatment that involves the use of a curette (a long, slender utensil with small, sharp loop or scoop at the tip) and an electrode, or electric needle. The practitioner scrapes away the cancer with the curette and then uses the electrode to kill any lingering cancer cells. During a single office visit, this process is usually repeated once or twice and will leave a scar.
- Mohs surgery is a microscopically controlled surgery and a highly effective technique for treating squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers. If there is uncertainty about the extent of the skin cancer, or if it seems likely that the cancer will return after treatment, Mohs is the standard procedure for treatment. Also, if the cancer is in a critical area—near the eyes, face, or ears, for instance—this procedure is favored because it preserves as much of the healthy skin as possible and thus has less impact on the surgical site than other procedures.
Performed by a specially trained surgeon, the Mohs procedure first involves the removal of a fine, thin layer of skin, which the surgeon then checks under a microscope. If cancer cells are present, the surgeon removes and examines another layer of skin and repeats this process until no cancer cells are found in the skin samples.
The main drawback of the procedure is the slow, time-consuming process that can often take hours, but Mohs usually has better outcomes than other surgeries, ensuring that all the cancer is removed.
- Lymph node surgery is sometimes necessary if cancer cells are located near a lymph node. While a biopsy may be enough to eliminate the possibility of cancer, sometimes lymph dissection is necessary. This is a more extensive surgery that requires general anesthesia.
- Skin grafting and reconstructive surgery is sometimes necessary to repair the skin after the removal of large skin cancers.
If there is concern that the skin cancer has a high risk of spreading, other treatments like radiation or chemotherapy may be necessary after a surgical procedure.
If you have been advised to have a basal cell or squamous cell cancer removed by surgical procedure and would like a consultation with Dr. Weisberg please call our office at 561-775-6011 and our staff would be happy to assist in coordinating your care.