As frightening as it may be to receive a diagnosis of skin cancer, you can take heart in the fact that today's patients have more options that ever for successfully tackling and overcoming this threat -- including surgery to return your skin to a pre-cancerous state of health. But depending on your particular needs, priorities, and type of cancer, some surgical procedures may work better than others. Here are some ways to determine which kind of skin cancer surgery makes the most sense for you.
Larger Cancers: Wide-local Excision
There's no more effective way to make certain that your troublesome patch of skin cancer is gone for good than to simply cut or shave it off. Excision surgery is actually part of the biopsy process anyway, since your dermatologist will probably shave off a small part of the suspicious area for examination before making further recommendations. The next step, wide-local excision, removes not only the cancer itself, but also a small fringe of surrounding tissue just to make sure that any surrounding cancer cells have also been excised.
Wide-local excision surgery is highly effective for removing larger skin cancers. At the same time, however, it may necessitate an additional surgical procedure—a skin graft to help cover the wound and permit complete healing. Even if you don't need a skin graft, the stitches you receive can leave a scar that calls for future cosmetic surgery.
Minimal Scarring: Micrographic Surgery
Basic excision surgery is relatively invasive because it includes a "safety" margin by excising some healthy tissue as well as cancerous tissue. If you need to have a cancer excised but you want to experience less scarring or disfigurement, you should look into micrographic surgery (also known as Mohs surgery, after its developer). In this form of excision surgery, the surgeon examines each layer of excised tissue under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells before going further. As soon as no more cancer cells are visible, the surgery is complete.
This super-accurate procedure ensures both that the entire cancer was removed and that the resulting wound is as small as possible. If you're concerned about the cosmetic impact of your surgery, or you want to reduce the odds that you'll need skin grafting, then micrographic surgery is a smart option.
Easy Fix for Small Cancers: Curettage and Electrodesiccation
If you have only a small basal cell or squamous cell cancer and you'd like the most minimal surgery possible, you could be a good candidate for curettage and electrodesiccation. A sufficient small, self-contained cancerous lesion can literally scooped out with a small surgical instrument called a curette. The "electrodesiccation" phase of the procedure involves zapping any remaining cancerous cells at the wound site with electricity.
Curettage and electrodesiccation is one of the easiest of all surgical procedures for the patient. The entire procedure can be performed in minutes with only a local anesthetic to numb the pain. The wound left behind may be so small that you have no need for stitches, although it does tend to leave a scar.
Minimal Bleeding: Cryosurgery
Do you have a bleeding disorder that makes traditional surgery somewhat riskier or more complicated for you than for the average patient? If so, you may want to find out whether your skin cancer can be removed via freezing instead of cutting. This technique, known as cryosurgery, employs liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the tissues at the cancer site -- including, of course, the cancer cells.
Cryosurgery certainly creates less bleeding than traditional surgery, although some minor bleeding may still occur. But there will be some crusting and oozing during the healing process, which may take a few weeks. Be aware, too, that the risk of recurrence with this method may be higher, which means you may need additional cryosurgeries down the road.
These surgical techniques represent only some of the most common methods for beating skin cancer, radiation, chemotherapy and other options can also be highly effective. But your best weapon against this disease is prevention. Wearing plenty of clothing outdoors, protecting exposed skin with UV-blocking products, and getting your skin checked regularly by a dermatologist can all help you avoid facing this frightening situation going forward.
For more information about which is best for you, contact resources like Countryside Dermatology & Laser Center.
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