3 Skin Cancer Treatments That Minimize Scarring

Posted on: 25 March 2015

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If you've been diagnosed with skin cancer, you should know that there's good news – skin cancer is one of the most treatable kinds of cancer out there. In fact, with early detection, most skin cancers are close to 100% treatable. The bad news is that most of the common treatments for skin cancer involve surgery, and that means that many patients are left with visible scars. While a scar is certainly not the worst possible outcome for a cancer diagnosis, most patients aren't exactly thrilled to have them, either. However, there's more good news: depending on the type of skin cancer and the stage that it's in, there may be a treatment that will leave you with little or no scarring. Take a look at some skin cancer surgeries that are healing patients and minimizing scarring.

Laser Surgery

By now, most people are familiar with the concept of using lasers instead of scalpels in the operating room. Avoiding the knife means that you avoid most of the risk of scarring. Laser surgery also has the advantage of allowing the surgeon to reach places on your body that are tough to reach and operate on, like the skin between your toes. The laser surgery procedure involves first applying a local anesthetic and then aiming a high powered laser beam at the cancer site. The laser destroys the cancerous tissue. You'll be left with a blister-like wound that will heal in a few weeks.

The scarring left by this procedure is minimal. The laser can be used to attack cancer at different levels of the skin. If the cancer is very superficial, you may see no scar at all. If the cancer was located in deeper tissue, then there is the risk of hypopigmentation – in other words, a white spot, caused by an absence of melanin in that part of the skin.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery is slightly more invasive than laser surgery, as it does require a small incision. The cryosurgery procedure involves using either liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze the cancerous tissue and destroy it. The tissue is then thawed, and additional freeze-and-thaw cycles may be performed if the cancer is particularly deep.

Like laser surgery, cryosurgery sometimes, but not always, results in hypopigmentation in the treated area, though there is no surgical scar to worry about. Cryosurgery can also result in temporary swelling, and occasionally nerve damage can occur, leaving the treated area numb. However, cryosurgery has many advantages – it's often used on patients for whom traditional surgery is contraindicated.

Mohs Surgery

Sometimes the scalpel is unavoidable. However, there is a surgical technique that is becoming widespread that can help minimize scarring and provide a slightly higher cure rate than traditional surgery. This technique is known as Mohs surgery.

During a skin cancer removal using this technique, the surgeons remove the cancerous tissue slowly – one layer at a time. After each removal, they examine the layer under a microscope, checking for cancerous cells. Once they reach a layer with no cancerous cells, they stop. This is different from conventional skin cancer surgery, because during conventional surgery, the surgeons estimate how much of the tissue is cancerous, and then take some of the nearby healthy tissue as well, just to be on the safe side. The scars are more pronounced because the surgeons take more tissue. With Mohs surgery, they take only as much tissue as is necessary, and no more. Mohs surgery is more time consuming for patient and surgeon, but it may be well worth the extra time.

Skin cancer surgery is a big decision, and there are more factors to consider than the issue of scarring. Discuss all of your concerns – including the risk of scarring – with your doctor, and ask about the different treatment methods that are appropriate for your cancer. 

Go to websites available online for more information.