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Excision of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Surgery Overview

Excision of nonmelanoma skin cancer is a treatment to remove, or excise, basal cell and squamous cell cancers (carcinomas) from your skin. Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the skin.

Most cases of these types of cancer can be cured if they are found and removed early. If the cancer is not completely removed, it may come back.

The doctor uses medicine to numb the area around the cancer. Then the doctor cuts out the cancer along with small amount of healthy skin around it. The wound is most often closed with stitches.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes. You will probably go home soon after. You may have a scar. The scar should fade with time.

The tissue that was removed will be sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. This is done to confirm if the tissue is skin cancer and if all of it was removed.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counselors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org for more information.

What To Expect

Recovery from skin cancer surgery varies depending on the site and how much skin is removed.

How Well It Works

Standard excision treatment for basal cell carcinoma less than 20 mm (0.8 in.) wide has cure rates as high as 95 out of 100 people, when done with 4 mm (0.2 in.) margins.footnote 1 When standard excision is used to treat squamous cell carcinoma, about 92 out of 100 people are cured. In most cases, Mohs micrographic surgery has cure rates that are a little higher than excision cure rates.footnote 2

Risks

Risks of using excision to remove skin cancers include the following:

  • The wound may bleed, cause pain, or become infected.
  • Scarring may occur.
  • A skin graft may not heal.
  • All cancer cells may not be removed, leaving a margin that has cancer cells.

References

Citations

  1. Carucci JA, et al. (2012). Basal cell carcinoma. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1294–1303. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Green AC, McBride P (2014). Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (non-metastatic). BMJ Clinical Evidence. http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/systematic-review/1709/overview.html. Accessed October 2, 2014.

Credits

Current as of: December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology

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