How To Prepare For Squamous Cell Carcinoma Surgery
Early treatment of squamous cell carcinomas can prevent the spread to surrounding lymph nodes, organs, and tissues. Surgery is an effective and standard treatment option. The type of surgical technique used depends on many factors, including the size and location of the skin cancer. Knowing what to expect during squamous cell carcinoma surgery can significantly improve the treatment outcome.
Removing well-defined tumors early
Excisional surgery is recommended for low-risk tumors that have not spread far. Surgeons remove all of the tumor and excision margin of healthy tissue. After the surgical excision, the patient can return home. The tumor is sent to the lab for analysis. The patient must return for further treatment if cancer cells are found on the excision margin.
Getting rid of low-risk tumors
For low-risk and superficial tumors, curettage and electrodesiccation can be effective treatment options. During the procedure, a doctor scrapes the affected area with a curette. An electric current uses heat to remove the leftover cancer cells and control bleeding. Curettage and electrodesiccation are repeated until the cancer is completely gone.
Hope for high-risk skin cancers
Mohs surgery, also known as Mohs micrographic surgery, is the most effective surgical technique for removing squamous cell carcinomas. Mohs is often used for cancers that have a chance of returning or when the goal is to save as much healthy skin near sensitive areas such as around the ears, eyes, lips, scalp, genitals, fingers, and toes.
How Mohs works
During the procedure, a surgeon removes a thin layer of skin on the tumor and reviews the layer under a microscope. Layers are removed until the cancer cells are completely gone. Mohs may be more time-consuming but has a better outcome than most surgical techniques. Mohs is performed in one visit over a period of hours.
When surgery isn’t an option
Cryosurgery is an effective option for superficial squamous cell carcinomas or in patients who cannot tolerate anesthesia, have an implantable cardiac device, or have bleeding disorders. During treatment, liquid nitrogen is applied to freeze and kill the tumor, which can break off, leaving healthy skin behind.
Lymph node biopsy
When cancer has spread to local lymph nodes, doctors may recommend a lymph node biopsy. Lymphedema, a condition where too much fluid remains in the arms and legs, is a long-term side effect of lymph node dissection. Patients should consult with a doctor to determine if the side effects are worth the effort.
When removing large squamous cell skin cancer, skin grafting may be necessary to close the wound. Skin grafting involves taking healthy skin from another body area and using the graft to reconstruct the skin.
Making a full recovery
The tumor size and location affect the recovery time from squamous cell cancer surgery. Patients should follow the doctor’s instructions to ensure the affected area heals properly. Doctors can recommend medications and other therapies to improve the outcome of the skin cancer surgery.