Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. For patients suffering from basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer or melanoma, chances are a doctor will recommend a surgical procedure to remove the tumors and, often, cancerous lymph nodes as well.
There are a variety of skin cancer surgery procedures to consider based on the type of cancer and how much it has spread. The most common skin cancers are referred to as “nonmelanoma skin cancers” and are slow growing and easily treatable. Basal cell carcinomas (which comprise about 90 percent of all skin cancer diagnoses) fall under this category, as do squamous cell carcinomas. Neither of these varieties usually metastasizes, but they are considered malignant due to their ability to destroy surrounding tissue.
The most common surgical procedure for treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers is Mohs surgery. Also known as chemosurgery, the cure rate is very high – 98 percent or greater for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Mohs surgery is a four-step process that entails surgically removing sections of tissue, examining each specimen, mapping the cancerous areas and – when all cancerous cells have been removed – performing reconstructive surgery.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Surgery is required to remove the primary melanoma as well as any cancerous lymph nodes. Surgical procedures to treat melanoma include local excision, wide local excision, lymph node dissection and sentinel lymph node biopsy. Cure rates vary widely and are largely dependent upon how early melanoma is detected and how far it has metastasized in the body.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, particularly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet light is at its peak. Use plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and wear hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Be on the lookout for any changes to your skin, particularly suspicious-looking moles. If you’re older than 40, have a professional examine your skin once a year.