Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. Whether you’re suffering from basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, or melanoma, chances are your 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 your 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% 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 nonmelanoma skin cancers is Mohs surgery. Also known as chemosurgery, the cure rate is very high, 98% 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 they 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 10am and 4pm, 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.