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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Surgery

Surgery is the most common and most successful method of treating nonmelanoma skin cancer. The goals of surgery are to:

  • Remove the entire skincancer and a margin of healthy skin tissue around the cancer to reduce the chance of recurrence.
  • Preserve nearby skin tissue that is free of cancer and minimize scarring after surgery.

Surgery choices

The main types of surgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer include:

  • Mohs micrographic surgery. This surgery removes the skin cancer one layer at a time, checking each layer for cancer cells right after it is removed.
  • Excision. Excision removes the skin cancer along with some healthy skin tissue around it (margin).
  • Curettage and electrosurgery. Curettage uses a spoon-shaped instrument (curette) to scrape off the skin cancer, and electrosurgery controls the bleeding and destroys any remaining cancer cells.

Other types of surgery that may be done include:

  • Cryosurgery. Cryosurgery destroys the skin cancer by freezing it with liquid nitrogen.
  • Laser surgery. Lasers use an intense beam of light to remove skin cancer.
  • Dermabrasion. Dermabrasion scrapes off cancer cells in the top layer of skin using a swirling wire brush or small particles.

Each type of treatment has advantages and disadvantages. Discuss your options with your doctor.

What to think about

If squamous cell carcinoma has spread to the lymph nodes, surgery to remove the affected lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy) may be done. Radiation or chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 02, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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