Surgical Excision

Surgical excision is used to treat all types of skin cancer.  At its best - given an experienced surgeon and a small, well-placed tumor - it offers results that are both medically and cosmetically excellent.

Technique: The physician begins by outlining the tumor with a marking pen.  A "safety margin" of healthy-looking tissue will be included, because it is not possible to determine with the naked eye how far microscopic strands of tumor may have extended.  The extended line of excision is drawn, so the skin may be sewn back together.

The physician will administer a local anesthetic, and then cut along the lines that were drawn.  The entire procedure takes about thirty minutes for smaller lesions.

Wounds heal rapidly, usually in a week or two.  Scarring depends on many factors, including  the placement of the tumor and the patient's care of the wound after the procedure.

The tissue sample will be sent to a lab, to see if any of the "safety margin" has been invaded by skin cancer.  If this is the case, it is assumed that the cancer is still present, and additional surgery is required.  Usually, this is when Mohs micrographic surgery is used.

Advantages:
Cure rate is high, and in some cases, the scar is hardly noticeable.  It provides an opportunity to examine the surrounding tissue to see if the entire tumor has been removed, which is a good safety precaution. Also, the entire procedure is done in one session, unlike chemotherapy and radiation.

Disadvantages:
The procedure does require the removal of healthy skin, which results in a larger wound. In certain places on the body, like the head and scalp, it can be difficult to put the wound edges back together.  This treatment is best suited to tumors in locations where the wound can be easily stitched and closed.  In some cases, the size of the tumor will necessitate skin grafts to close the wound.