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Treating Skin Cancer With Surgery

Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer and is used to treat most types of cancerous tumors, including melanoma. Some types of skin cancer growths can be removed very easily and require only very minor surgery. Other types of skin cancer may need a more extensive surgery to remove.

How Do Doctors Remove Skin Cancer?

Surgeons use several different techniques to remove skin cancer. Surgery may include the following procedures:

  • Cryosurgery using liquid nitrogen—Cryosurgery uses an instrument that sprays liquid nitrogen onto your skin. Liquid nitrogen freezes and destroys cancerous tissue.
  • Curettage & Electrodesiccation—During this common type of surgery, your surgeon will scrape away cancerous skin tissue with a sharp surgical instrument called a curette. Your surgeon will then cauterize the area of your skin that’s been scraped with an electrosurgical tool.
  • Excision—During excision, your surgeon will use a scalpel (a sharp surgical tool) may be used to excise (cut off) and remove a cancerous tumor. Your surgeon will then use stitches or skin clips to hold your wounded skin together while it’s healing.
  • Mohs Microscopically Controlled SurgeryDuring Mohs surgery, your surgeon carefully cuts away pieces of a cancerous tumor layer by layer. Your surgeon will examine each piece of removed tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells, and will keep removing layers of skin until all the tumor cells are removed. The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove all of the malignant (cancerous) cells while at the same time removing as little normal tissue as possible. Doctors often use Mohs surgery to treat recurring tumors—or tumors that keep coming back.

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