What is Surgical Excision?
When a patient is found to have melanoma, or skin cancer, the cancerous skin growth must be removed. Surgical excision is a common treatment, which involves using a scalpel to cut, or excise, out the lesion, as well as the surrounding tissue. Once the growth and tissue are removed, San Antonio dermatologist, Dr. Garcia, will send them to a pathologist for additional testing to confirm whether or not all of the cancer has effectively been removed. If more cancer remains, Dr. Garcia can perform additional procedures to remove the remaining cancer.
Since surgical excision is an invasive procedure, anesthesia will be given. For smaller, easier to reach melanomas, a local anesthetic will be administered. If a melanoma is larger and in a more difficult location, general anesthesia would be required. Prior to surgery, the doctor will thoroughly clean the treatment area and administer anesthesia. The cancer will be removed using a scalpel to make horizontal cuts around the growth, including surrounding tissue. An electrode can be used to perform a feathering technique, which will smooth the edges around the wound. This helps to remove extra cells from the growth and minimizes the chance of scarring.
Small excisions can be stitched closed. With larger excisions, a skin graft may be needed to close up the wound. A chemical will be applied on the treatment area to stop any bleeding and an antibiotic ointment will be applied to accelerate the healing process. In addition, a sterile badge will be applied to protect the wound and keep it from getting infected.
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What to Expect
Since anesthesia is used for surgical excision, a patient shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure. However, a patient may experience a pushing sensation as the cuts are being made in the treatment area. For some patients, this could be a source of discomfort. The overall length of the surgery can depend on the patient’s particular case such as how large the growth is or on which area of the body it’s found. A patient should also be made aware that the amount of border tissue excised is dependent on how deep the melanoma is. The deeper the melanoma, the wider the border of normal skin is taken. A doctor may also remove fat and skin from underneath the melanoma.
The length of recovery and downtime depends on the location and extent of the particular excision such as if skin grafts were required. After surgery, a patient may experience a burning sensation or general discomfort in the area where the cancer was removed. For the first few days following the surgery, the patient may be advised to take an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen to alleviate pain. A patient can also expect some scarring which will appear red for the first few weeks, but over time, it will lighten. Various creams or gels can be applied to help lighten the scar. To protect the wound, a bandage should be placed over the treatment site when out in the sun.
Plan Your Procedure
Treat Your Melanoma Safely
Whenever a patient encounters any type of growth that appears abnormal, he or she should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The growth could be cancerous and the sooner it is discovered, the better the patient’s chance for survival. An excision may be warranted which can remove all of the cancer before it spreads to surrounding skin and other body parts. Excision also allows for cells to undergo further testing which could confirm whether all cancer has been removed. Make an appointment as soon as possible to meet with a trained medical professional to examine the growth, discuss medical and family history and discuss all options, including if surgical excision is appropriate.