How Two Common Methods of Skin-Cancer Treatment Differ

Certain types of skin cancer are easy to cure if they are caught early. For that reason, regular skin examinations by your dermatologist are important. When the cancer is small, your doctor can usually remove it easily during an office visit. The method used for removing skin cancer depends on the size and location of the cancer cells. This is how two common methods of skin-cancer surgery differ.

Removing Skin Cancer in Areas Often Covered

If the skin cancer is on your arm, back, chest, or other area that is easy to hide, then your doctor will probably just remove the cancer by cutting, burning, or freezing it out. These methods can leave behind a scar, so they aren't normally used on your face. The procedure is done in your dermatologist's office using a local anesthetic. The skin cancer is cut out or destroyed with a laser or liquid nitrogen. A surrounding border of healthy cells is removed too so stray cancer cells are caught before they can spread. You may need stitches after this type of surgery, especially if a lot of tissue is removed. It is often difficult to determine the size of the cancer by looking at the surface of your skin. Therefore, the doctor may need to remove a large mass that will leave a significant mark or sunken area on your skin. However, if the cancer is caught early enough, there may just be a tiny white scar or no scar at all left behind.

Treating Skin Cancer on the Face

Removing skin cancer from a highly visible area requires a different approach. Rather than guess on how much healthy tissue to remove, the surgery is done precisely so the least amount of healthy cells are taken. This greatly reduces the risk of scars developing. To do this surgery, your doctor removes a layer of tissue at a time. The sample is then examined in the lab. If the sample reveals cancer cells, then there could be cancer cells left on your skin. So, the doctor repeats the procedure. The process continues with the doctor removing slice after slice until the lab examines a specimen that shows all the cancer cells have been removed. Although this is a time-consuming process, it is effective at treating skin cancer while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. This is an important consideration if the cancer is around your eyes or on your face where a scar would be immediately noticeable.

Your dermatologist considers several other factors when deciding which approach to use when treating your skin cancer. While avoiding scars on your face is important to you, it may not be the most important factor if the cancer poses a serious danger to your health. In that case, the doctor may want to use radiation or chemotherapy drugs. Your general health and the type of skin cancer you have play important roles in deciding what treatment is best to prevent the spread of skin cancer to other parts of your body.