One of the most commonly used treatments for basal cell carcinoma is surgery. There are several factors – such as how large the cancer is and where it is located – that influence whether surgery would be appropriate and, if so, what type of procedure would be used. Some patients might not want to – or be able to – undergo surgery, in which case other treatments may be recommended.
Types of surgery used for treating basal cell carcinoma
There are several different surgical procedures that may be used for treating basal cell carcinoma. In some instances, additional treatments may be given following surgery.
The surgeon will remove the cancerous lesion, along with some surrounding healthy tissue to ensure there are no cancerous cells remaining. The skin around the surgical site may then need to be stitched.
Curettage and electrodesiccation
This procedure is technically not surgery, but is sometimes categorized as such. It involves removing the surface of the lesion with a tool called a curette (a scraping instrument) and then destroying any remaining cancer cells with an electric needle.
Surgeons who are specially trained for Mohs surgery perform this procedure by removing the cancerous lesion one very thin layer at a time. After each layer is removed, it is closely checked under a microscope for cancerous cells until a layer is reached where no cancer remains. This procedure is more complicated and takes longer than other surgical options, but it can preserve more healthy tissue around the lesion and result in better aesthetic outcomes for patients. Mohs surgery is offered in conjunction with the USF Department of Dermatology.
Lymph node surgery
When basal cell carcinoma affects nearby lymph nodes, the nodes may need to be removed with a lymph node dissection. A surgeon will first perform a biopsy to check for the presence of cancerous cells.
Basal cell carcinoma surgery at Moffitt Cancer Center
At Moffitt, patients work with not just one doctor, but an entire multispecialty team focused on the treatment of basal cell carcinoma. This team collaborates to create an individualized treatment plan for each patient, ensuring everyone receives the most appropriate therapy for their unique circumstances and experiences the best possible outcome and quality of life.