Skin cancer is prevalent among individuals who are repeatedly exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV), and skin cancer surgery is one of the most common procedures performed by board certified plastic surgeons. The facts are unmistakable — our skin is sensitive to UV radiation, and we put ourselves at risk each time we step outdoors without sunscreen or other adequate protection.
Of the non-melanoma skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is by far the most common; it usually develops slowly in the basal cells of the deepest epidermal layer, rarely metastasizing. If BCC is neglected, it can cause significant destruction and disfigurement to the skin. The next most common non-melanoma skin cancer after BCC is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Like BCC, SCC is slow-growing, but it develops in the squamous cells of the top layer of the epidermal. Though unlikely, squamous cell carcinomas can metastasize and even cause death.
Individuals with a previous diagnosis of BCC are at higher risk for contracting SCC. Other factors that put individuals at greater risk for developing skin cancer include:
- Chemical carcinogens exposure
- Genetic susceptibility
- Fair skin, blond or red hair, light-colored eyes
What Happens During Skin Cancer Surgery?
If you have received a diagnosis of skin cancer that has been confirmed by biopsy, you may want to make an appointment with Dr. Sattler to discuss your options for treatment. Surgical approaches to skin cancer treatment include curettage, surgical excision, radiation therapy, or cryotherapy.
During curretage, the surgeon scrapes away the cancer with a tool called a curette, then applies electricity with an electrocautery needle to destroy any remaining cancer cells. If the surgical excision approach is selected, your surgeon will first numb the area to be treated with local anesthesia. Using a scalpel, he will then remove the tumor along with a surrounding border of normal skin. The excised tissue is sent to the laboratory for microscopic examination to verify that all the malignant cells have been removed.
During cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen is applied to the cancerous tissue, which freezes and destroys it. The procedure may be repeated during the same session to ensure total destruction of the malignant cells. Radiation therapy is generally only used for cancer that has spread to organs, lymph nodes, or tumors that are surgically untreatable. X–ray beams are directed at the tumor, a procedure that must be repeated several times each week for a few weeks.
Aftercare For Skin Cancer Surgery
Aftercare varies considerably with skin cancer treatment, depending on a number of factors — which technique was used, how extensively the cancer had spread, as well as factors specific to the patient like general health, age, and medical history. Other surgical approaches to skin cancer require varying degrees and types of care. Your surgeon may also schedule follow-up visits with you so that he can monitor your recovery.
To learn more about skin cancer surgery and treatment in LA County, contact our plastic surgeon's office in Glendora, CA located near Arcadia and Azusa. Dr. Jon Sattler is board certified in plastic and reconstructive surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.