Because skin cancer is so common, medical researchers are always looking for innovative ways to treat it more effectively. Advancements in laser and radiation techniques have significantly reduced many risks; however, don’t forget about traditional skin cancer treatments that have been successful (with only minimal risk) for years, such as curettage and electrodesiccation.
At acclaimed West Dermatology, experts in treating your dermatology needs, our skin cancer specialists are committed to your skin cancer needs. Contact our dermatologists through our online form or by calling 888-554-8740 to discuss the treatment options for your specific condition.
What is Curettage and Electrodesiccation?
This particular surgical procedure, also referred to as ED&C, was once the treatment of choice for both basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) years before technological and medical advances gave us the advanced techniques for treating skin cancer that are employed today, such as Mohs Micrographic Surgery and laser surgery. For many patients, this traditional type of surgery is still the most effective choice for treating their skin cancer.
In this surgical procedure, there are two basic steps involved: the removal of cancerous skin tissue through scraping followed by the closing of the resulting wound through cauterization. It’s a simple procedure that your dermatologist can do here in one of our West Dermatology offices.
What to Expect from a Curettage and Electrodesiccation Procedure
Before the session begins, a local anesthetic injection is administered. Then the curettage procedure begins, during which a spoon-like instrument called a curette is used to scrape out the infected tissue. The superheating properties of electrodesiccation are then used by running an electrical current through a needle-like instrument to control bleeding, close the wound, and destroy any leftover cancer cells. This process is repeated depending on how widespread the cancerous tissue is.
Once the procedure is finished, an antibiotic bandage is then used to dress the wound. You should change this with healing ointment twice daily for a couple of days until the wound is fully healed.
Side Effects of ED+C Skin Cancer Surgery
Virtually every type of surgery has side effects, and ED&C is no different. Common side effects include:
- Hypertrophic scarring
- Skin tightness
- Soreness around the treated area
- Pitted, indented skin
- Raised skin
- Skin redness
- Skin blanching (whiteness)
Because of the possibility of unwanted scarring, we especially recommend this procedure for removal of cancer cells on areas of your body that are less visible, such as your torso, back, and extremities.
A final complication with this surgery is the chance of your cancer recurring. As such, we always require that our patients have regular follow-up evaluations with us so we can monitor whether or not the abnormal cells have actually been destroyed.
Why You Should Consider Curettage and Electrodesiccation
The method of scraping and burning off cancerous skin growths is used for less serious skin cancers that have yet to spread – generally, this treatment is effective for lesions with a diameter of a ¼ inch (6mm) or smaller.
This procedure is performed for the removal of the following:
- Superficial skin cancers, especially in more discrete, less visible areas
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Early-stage squamous cell carcinoma
It is more than just effective treatment of cancerous skin tissue; it also works on small skin lesions and benign tumors, such as warts and seborrheic keratosis.
For patients concerned with the aesthetic results, other procedures such as shave removal should be discussed.
Contraindications of Curettage and Electrodesiccation
As many surgical therapies do, ED+C has its limitations. In general, we don’t recommend this for patients with implanted cardiac pacemakers.
Tumor size matters. ED+C is not as effective for cancerous tumors and lesions larger than a ½ inch in diameter or those in certain areas of your body, such as the “H” zone of your face (this area goes down both cheeks with a horizontal “line” across your face going under your eyes and including your nose, forming a loose “H” pattern). You would be better served undergoing another treatment, such as excisional surgery, radiation therapy, or Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS).
Other types of skin lesions that don’t respond well to this procedure include:
- Fibrotic lesions
- Lesions that go deep below the skin, especially into the subcutaneous fat
- Poorly-defined tumors (those with inconsistent boundaries)
- Recurring BCC
- Sclerosing BCC
This surgical procedure is most effective on new skin cancers that are only superficial. Learn more about skin cancer treatments at WebMD.com.
Talk to West Dermatology about ED+C
Skin cancer does not have to be a life threating condition. You have many options to treat your cancer and get you back to 100% health. Although many cutting-edge procedures can work for your specific skin condition, traditional methods such as curettage and electrodesiccation are still very effective for certain types of skin cancers. To learn more about this procedure and if it might be the best option for your skin cancer, contact West Dermatology today for a consultation.
Next, read about Excisional Surgery.