Types of Skin Cancer Surgery

Unusual moles, sores, lumps or changes in the skin may be a sign of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. For most melanomas or cancerous moles, skin cancer surgery is the mainstay of treatment. For early-stage melanomas, surgery usually provides a cure.

The type of skin cancer surgery performed will depend on the size and location of the melanoma.

Types of skin cancer surgery include:

  • Wide Excision
    This minor operation is suitable for most thin melanomas. In this type of skin cancer surgery, local anesthesia is injected into the area to numb it. Then, the tumor is cut out, along with a margin of normal tissue. The margin of normal tissue taken will vary based on the location and thickness of the tumor. The tissue sample is viewed under a microscope to ensure that the margins are clear of cancer cells.
  • Mohs Surgery
    This type of surgery is performed by a specially trained dermatologist or surgeon, and it is designed to allow the surgeon to remove the cancer while saving as much of the surrounding normal tissue as possible. In this procedure, the skin is removed in very thin layers. Each layer is examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. If cancer cells are seen, the surgeon removes another layer of skin. The procedure continues until a layer shows no signs of cancer.
    Due to its high cure rate, Mohs surgery is recommended as the treatment of choice for high-risk non-melanoma skin cancers, including cancerous moles on the nose, eyelids, lips, ears, hands and feet. In recent years, Mohs surgery is increasingly used as an alternative to wide excision for certain melanomas.
  • Amputation
    In the rare case where a deep melanoma has grown on a finger or toe, all or part of that digit may need to be removed.
  • Lymph Node Dissection
    This type of skin cancer surgery involves removal of all the lymph nodes in the region of the melanoma. It is performed in cases where a biopsy reveals cancer cells in a lymph node or lymph nodes.