If you have skin cancer or an unwanted mole, surgical excision is often recommended. This is a simple surgery which carefully removes the unwanted or unhealthy skin cells while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. In some cases, this procedure may also be referred to as a shave excision. At Silver Falls Dermatology in Oregon and Washington, patients can turn to our providers for careful skin cancer or mole excision to protect their skin’s health.
Types of Skin Cancer
Surgical excision may be recommended for several types of skin cancer. This includes melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. In most cases, your provider will first recommend a biopsy before proceeding to excision. This involves removing a small amount of tissue which can be tested in a lab to make an accurate diagnosis. In some cases, especially when growths are small, the biopsy and excision are completed during the same appointment. In others, you may need to return for a second appointment to remove the remaining growth.
Moles are typically benign, but can be removed through excision if you choose. Many patients pursue mole removal because they feel that their mole is unsightly or because the mole causes irritation. For example, a mole in a prominent area may frequently catch or pull on clothing or jewelry. Rather than attempting to remove a mole at home, it is important to seek care from a professional. This will prevent complications such as infection and ensure that the mole is completely removed with little to no scarring as a result.
In some cases, moles may be cancerous or precancerous. Signs of a cancerous or precancerous mole include asymmetry, irregular borders, changing or uneven color, diameter larger than a standard pencil eraser (about 2 mm) or otherwise evolving appearance. If you notice these changes in a mole, you should schedule an appointment for an examination or biopsy.
The Skin Cancer or Mole Excision Process
Most skin cancer and mole excision procedures require local anesthesia. After the area is numbed and sterilized, your provider will remove the lesion. For patients with skin cancer, a border of healthy skin cells is also removed to ensure that all cancerous cells are completely removed. Skin cancer and mole excisions are usually performed with a sharp razor, but a scalpel or other surgical tool may also be used. Throughout the procedure, you may feel a scraping or pulling sensation, but the treatment should not be painful. Most skin cancer and mole excisions can be completed relatively quickly. After the procedure, your provider will suture the wound closed as needed. They will clean the surgical site and apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection before applying a sterile bandage.
For some skin cancer patients, Mohs surgery may be recommended rather than a surgical excision. This procedure involves removing the cancerous tissue layer-by-layer and examining each sample of tissue under a microscope to ensure that all cancer cells have been removed. Mohs surgery is most frequently used to treat squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma. If you are a better candidate for Mohs surgery, your provider will discuss this option with you prior to your treatment.
After Skin Cancer or Mole Excision
Following your skin cancer or mole excision, your provider will instruct you to keep the surgical site dry for 24 hours. You should also keep the area covered when outdoors and avoid any direct sun exposure until the wound heals. After your procedure, your provider will also give you specific instructions regarding removing or changing bandages, cleaning the area, applying antibiotic ointment or pain relief. As the area heals, you can expect redness, swelling and some discomfort. Inflammation and redness may persist for up to a month. All symptoms should gradually improve over time.
During your excision, care will be taken to reduce scarring as much as possible. However, there is a chance that you may experience more noticeable scarring after the wound heals. Treatment may be available to help further reduce any scarring, such as a laser procedure or chemical peel. A consultation with a dermatology care provider can help you determine the best option should scarring occur.