What is curettage and electrosurgery for skin cancer?

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Curettage and electrosurgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer: Overview

Curettage and electrosurgery is a procedure used to remove skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are types of cancer in which abnormal skin cells grow out of control.

Most cases of these types of cancer can be cured if they are found and removed early. If the cancer is not completely removed, it may come back.

The procedure is usually done in your doctor's office. After numbing the area, the doctor scrapes the top layers of skin away with a spoon-shaped tool (curette). Then the doctor heats the surface of the wound with an electric current through a metal tool or needle (electrosurgery). This helps control bleeding and destroys any cancer cells that remain.

The doctor may repeat the process 2 or 3 more times. The doctor scrapes a little beyond the edge of the cancer to help remove all the cancer cells. The wound is then covered with ointment and a bandage. A scab will form over the area.

The wound may take 3 to 6 weeks to heal. How long it takes depends on the size of the area treated. Good wound care may help the scar fade with time.

The tissue that was removed will be sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. This is done to confirm if the tissue is skin cancer.

How can you care for yourself after curettage and electrosurgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer?

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash around the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.

How well do curettage and electrosurgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer work?

Treating skin cancer with curettage and electrosurgery can cure it most of the time. But this depends on things like the size, depth, and location of the cancer. Your doctor can tell you if this is a good option for you.

What are the risks of curettage and electrosurgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer?

Risks of using curettage and electrosurgery for skin cancer include:

  • Skin changes, such as scarred or tight skin, slightly indented or raised skin, or change in skin color to red, white, or brown.
  • Bleeding.
  • Pain.
  • Infection.
  • Recurrence of skin cancer.

What can you expect as you recover from curettage and electrosurgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer?

Recovery may take 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the extent of surgery. Keep the wound clean and dry. A scab will form over the area.

Why are curettage and electrosurgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer done?

Curettage and electrosurgery are an effective way to remove some basal and squamous cell skin cancers. It's usually done only for small, early skin cancers and only in certain places.

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