Currettage and Cautery is a very common procedure used in the treatment of basal cell carcinomas that are generally of small size and located in low recurrence areas of the body (neck, trunk, extremities). The area is first numbed with a local anaesthetic injection and then scraped from surrounding normal skin with a curette (a circular, sharp instrument). An electrosurgical needle is then used to desiccate (heat and dry up) the remaining cancerous tissue. This is repeated for a total of three or four times in succession in order to achieve maximal cure rates. This form of treatment is quick, efficient and cost effective. It is limited however, by leading to higher recurrence rates when treating large lesions and cancers of the mid face. Pain during treatment is minimal and post-operatively the area may feel comparable to a small burn.
The cosmetic result will appear as a lighter (hypopigmented) flat spot that is of similar size as the cancer was prior to treatment. The method requires no stitches, only one post operative visit (usually) and is healed with 10 – 21 days.
The chance of a cure in the lesion being treated with this procedure is 92 – 93% (this figure would be lower in high recurrence areas, and with treatment of larger and more aggressive tumours). There are no long term side effects, except for scarring as described above.
Ref: Telfer NR, Colver GB and Morton CA. Guidelines for the management of basal cell carcinoma. Br Journal of Dermatology 2008. 159: 35-48
Next Review January 2016