Surgical excision is a technique that involves the use of a scalpel to excise (cut out) cancerous tissue. The area of the cancer is numbed using a local anaesthetic, and a small measurement of 2-4 mm of normal skin surrounding the lesion is made. The cancer plus surrounding normal skin is then removed by incision with the scalpel blade. Stitches are placed to bring the adjacent wound edges together. In some cases, extra skin may be mobilised or taken from a distant site (flap or graft), in order to cover the surgical defect (flap or graft). Pain during treatment is minimal and post-operatively may feel comparable to that of a bruise. Surgical excision may require 1-2 post operative visits (including suture removal), and heals more rapidly than Currettage and Cautery and cryosurgery.
The cosmetic result is superior to the previously mentioned techniques, but is dependent upon the size and location of the tumour.
The overall rate of cure in the lesion being treated is 94 – 98%. This statistic would be lower in high risk areas of the face, and on larger more aggressive tumours.
The long term side effects are scarring, and rarely, nerve damage. An advantage of excision is that the margins of the excision specimen can be checked microscopically by a pathologist.
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