If it is determined that you have skin cancer, you may have additional tests to determine the stage of it.
Superficial skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma rarely spread. A biopsy that removes the entire growth is often the only test needed to determine the stage of the cancer. However, if you have a large squamous cell carcinoma, merkel cell carcinoma or melanoma, you may have to have further tests to determine the extent.
The skin cancer’s stage helps determine which treatment options will be most effective.
Treatment options for skin cancer and precancerous skin lesions vary, depending on size, type, depth and location. Small skin cancers limited to the surface of the skin may not require treatment beyond an initial skin biopsy that removes the entire growth.
If additional treatment is needed, options for you may include:
- To destroy pre-cancerous skin lesions, and some small, early skin cancers by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The dead tissue falls off.
- Excisional surgery.This type of treatment may be appropriate for any type of skin cancer. The cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin is cut out. A wide excision to remove extra normal skin around the area may be recommended in some cases.
- Mohs surgery.This procedure is for larger, recurring or difficult-to-treat skin cancers, which may include both basal and squamous cell carcinomas. It’s often used in areas where it’s necessary to conserve as much skin as possible, such as on the nose.
During Mohs surgery, your doctor removes the skin growth by layer, examining each under a microscope, until no abnormal cells remain. This procedure allows cancerous cells to be removed without taking an excessive amount of surrounding healthy skin.
- Electrodesiccation and curettage is generally used to remove smaller or superficial basal cell carcinomas. The surface of the skin cancer is removed with a blade or scraping instrument (curette) and then the base of the cancer is seared with an electric needle to control bleeding and kill cancer cells. In a similar procedure, the base is treated by freezing it with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) after curettage.