Surgery for Skin Cancer: What Patients Need to Know

Prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun or spending a lot of time in a tanning bed are just some of the ways people may get skin cancer. If left undetected or untreated, many forms of skin cancer can be fatal. Surgeons and cancer specialists are often able to remove areas of skin affected with cancer via surgical methods. Read more to learn about how skin cancer surgery can potentially save lives.


Through this method of surgery, the patient's skin is numbed with a local anesthetic. The surgeon then cuts away the affected skin. Additional skin around the affected area is also usually removed in order to ensure all of the cancer is taken out. This method is usually done via an outpatient method and little monitoring at the hospital is required. The skin is stitched back together and a scar usually remains, but this is an effective method for removing smaller areas of skin cancer.


For more intense skin cancer treatment, a process called curettage is used. The surgeon will utilize an instrument called a curette. This instrument is long and thin, and is used to scrape the cancer out and off of the skin. Next, an electrode is inserted into the area in order to kill any cancer cells that may still remain. The process might occur more than once per visit just to ensure that all of the cancer is removed and all of the cells are destroyed. This is a good surgical method for skin cancer that is found in the top layer of skin.

Mohs or Microscopic Surgery

This form of skin cancer treatment is most often used if the physician is concerned that the cancer may return after treatment. It is also used when the doctor is unsure how severe the cancer is, as well as when it may be located in delicate areas such as the eyes or fingers. Mohs surgery is typically considered one of the most effective methods for treating skin cancer, but it is more complicated and takes more time to perform. The surgeon will remove a thin layer of skin where the tumor is located and observe the skin sample using a microscope. Each successive layer is removed until there are no longer layers of skin containing cancerous cells. This process will take many hours to complete, but it is also the best way to preserve the skin.

If you'd like more information about skin cancer surgery, contact an oncologist in your area.