Most cancers of the skin can be treated with short, safe, and effective therapies in the office. There are many options for skin cancer removal that take into account the size, location on the body, overall patient health, and type of cancer.
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are very similar, in that they are both cancers of the surface layer of the skin, mostly caused by sun exposure, and rarely spread internally. They are both treated in very similar ways. Melanoma, a cancer of pigment cells within the skin, may require more aggressive treatment because of its ability to spread within the body (metastasize).
The most common technique to remove basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is surgical excision. This procedure is performed in the office, usually takes 20-30 min, and done with local anesthesia. After the skin in numbed, the skin cancer and a margin of normal tissue is removed, followed by cosmetic repair, typically utilizing stitches and resulting in a linear scar. Another technique that can be used to remove certain superficial skin cancers is the electrodessication and curratage, which uses a combination of scraping the cancer off of the skin, followed by use of cautery to the treated area. The procedure takes minutes, does not require sutures or a limit on physical activity, and results in a circular scar.
If the cancer involves certain sensitive areas of the body such as the face, then Mohs micrographic surgery may be the preferred technique for removal. It involves testing the skin at the same time as the removal to ensure the cancer has been completely removed. It provides a higher cure rate and shorter scars.