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3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA
Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer Guide
Transplant Patient Guide
Caring for Transplant Patients
Organ Transplant Immunosuppressed High Risk Skin Cancer Clinic
Tumor Board
Mohs Surgery
Contact and Referrals
Research and Clinical Trials
Dermatology Faculty


Surgical Treatment of Skin Cancer
  • Cryosurgery
    • Very cold! (-321°F or -196°C)
    • Treatment of choice for individual pre-cancers
    • Applied with a spray gun or cotton tipped applicator
    • A burning or “frostbite sting” sensation is felt
    • Treated areas turn red, swollen, and sometimes blister during healing
  • Currettage with electrodessication
    • Precancerous lesions are scraped away with a curette
    • Then the area is cauterized with an electric needle to control bleeding and kill any remaining cancerous cells
  • Photodynamic therapy
    • A light-sensitizing solution is applied to the skin and allowed to absorb over several hours
    • Chemical is selectively absorbed by the abnormal cells
    • An activating light is shined on the patient, causing destruction of the abnormal cells
    • Burning sensation is experienced
    • Lesions turn red and crusty
    • Patients must avoid any sun exposure after treatment, as their skin is still light sensitive
  • Ablative skin resurfacing (resurfacing laser, dermabrasion, chemical peel)
    • Laser or chemicals are used to remove the outer layers of the skin
    • As the treated skin peels, new skin forms to replace it
    • Redness and swelling are seen for several days/weeks after the treatment
    • Can have pigment changes and scarring
  • Excision and split-thickness skin grafting of the dorsa of the hand and forearm
  • Mohs micrographic surgery
    • Technique of surgery that has the highest five-year cure rates for surgical treatment of both primary (96 %) and recurrent (90 %) skin cancers
    • Removes all of the cancerous tissue and as little of the healthy tissue as possible to minimize scaring and maximize cosmetic outcome
    • The cancer is shaved off one thin layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope until the entire tumor is removed
    • This method should be used only by physicians who are specially trained in this type of surgery

      Read more about Mohs micrographic surgery

  • Excision with intraoperative frozen section control
  • Excision with postoperative margin assessment
  • Excision with Sentinal Lymph Node Biopsy


Updated: May 4, 2007
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
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