Living With A High Risk Of Skin Cancer: Surgical Options If The Disease Develops To An Advanced Stage

The majority of cancer cases in the United States consist of basal or squamous cell skin cancer. While not as lethal as melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, these nonmelanoma cancers can cause damage to your muscles, bones and develop into unsightly growths on your skin.

While nonmelanoma skin cancer can be caused by several factors, many people are at a higher risk for developing the disease due to genetics. If you are among the high-risk group and worry about developing a severe case of nonmelanoma skin cancer, you should educate yourself on the most effective surgical treatment options for the disease.

Excisional Surgery to Remove Growths

Millions of people get diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer each year. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on when the disease was diagnosed and how aggressive it spreads. If your cancer was not detected early and you have a large growth, your doctor might suggest excisional surgery.

During the procedure, the entire growth and the surrounding skin will be removed. After being put under local anesthesia, your doctor will begin removing the skin and tissue. If you have a heart condition or other serious health issues unrelated to skin cancer, other types of health professionals may be present to monitor your health during the surgery.

Several growths can be excised during one operation. When the growths are removed, the wound will be closed with stitches. The cancerous growths will be sent to a pathologist for testing.

Your aftercare includes applying a topical ointment to the wounds and having the stitches removed after a few weeks.

Mohs Surgery

One of the oldest ways to treat nonmelanoma skin cancer is via a technique called Mohs micrographic surgery. Developed in the 1930s by a surgeon at the University of Wisconsin, all dermatologists are required to study the procedure according to the American Society for Mohs Surgery.

It is a meticulous technique that requires the surgeon to remove the cancerous parts of your skin, thin layer by thin layer, until only cancer-free tissue is left. Between each removal, the skin layers are examined on a slide under a microscope. Doctors also use the layers to create a map of the growth.

Mohs surgery is ideal because it enables your doctor to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible, especially in sensitive areas of your body such as your face, feet, hands, ears and genital area.

Doctors opt for Mohs surgery when the cancerous growth is large and aggressive and has borders that are hard to define. As a result, the technique is also used on patients with melanoma.

Depending on the size of the growth, the surgeon may close the wound with stitches or with a skin graft.

Compared to other types of surgeries, the scars left by Moh surgery are not noticeable and may even go undetected by others. There is little to no pain after Mohs surgery and doctors routinely prescribe acetaminophen for any discomfort.


If you have a medical issue that may complicate having invasive surgery, such as a bleeding disorder like hemophilia, you are probably not a good candidate for excisional or Mohs surgery. In such cases, a dermatologist may use a non-invasive technique called cryosurgery.

Cryosurgery involves removing the skin growth by freezing it with liquid nitrogen after the skin gets numbed via a local anesthetic. The doctor applies the liquid nitrogen with a cotton applicator or a spray before removing a cancerous skin lesion. The procedure will be repeated depending on the size and number of growths.

After the procedure, the treatment site may swell, turn red or develop a blister. Any minor pain is generally treated with a prescription pain reliever. The doctor will provide you with instructions on how to keep the wound dry as it heels over the course of four to six weeks.

For more information about treatment or skin cancer in general, talk with a dermatologist or visit websites like