A skin lesion is any abnormality on one’s skin. As such, they are rather common. They may occur as a result of aging, sun exposure, genetics, or other factors. They include but are not limited to skin tags, moles and birthmarks. Many times, people with skin lesions can feel insecure or concerned about their lesion. Although most skin lesions are benign, the risk of a skin cancer always exists. Furthermore, skin lesions may cause discomfort and itching, irrespective of being cancerous or not. If you have skin lesions and want them removed, the process is usually quick and involves minimal pain. This list will help you understand the different methods of skin lesion removal as you consider or prepare for surgery.
This removal method involves giving the patient a local anesthetic. Once the surgical area is anesthetized, a doctor (usually a dermatologist) will freeze off the lesion using liquid nitrogen applied with a cotton applicator stick or in the form of an aerosol spray. Since the lesion is frozen off and thereby destroyed, no specimen can be sent for pathologic analysis with this method.
The affected area will heal completely after about 10 days although pigmentation changes may occur for 3 to 6 weeks. A scab will form for a few days while healing occurs. To minimize risks such as scarring, infection, and an extended recovery time, make sure you keep the area clean and dry during the healing phase. You should also avoid direct sun exposure to minimize hyperpigmentation.
Like cryosurgery, the patient is given a local anesthetic before curettage. Curettage involves scraping the skin to its base with a spoon-like tool to remove the affected tissue. The doctor will then use electrocautery to achieve hemostasis as needed. The healing time for this procedure is approximately 10 days although pigmentation changes may occur for 3 to 6 weeks.
Electrosurgery uses a high-frequency, alternating electric current to generate heat and remove the skin lesion. The doctor will use a pencil-shaped metal tool to destroy or cauterize the affected area. This method can be done after curettage to cut tissue or control bleeding. The recovery time for electrosurgery is also approximately 10 days, depending on the size of the affected area.
A shave excision is a method where a raised skin lesion is removed from the surface of the skin under local anesthesia using a scalpel blade. The deeper aspect of the lesion below the skin surface persists. The advantage of this technique is scarless healing and having a specimen for pathologic analysis with the disadvantage of possible recurrence of the lesion. A bandage needs to be worn for a few days after and the area usually healed within 10 days.
A surgical excision of a lesion involves removing the lesion entirely with a scalpel including a small margin of healthy surrounding tissue under local anesthesia. Sutures are subsequently placed and removed after 5-7 days unless absorbable sutures are used.
A small, well concealed scar will form through this technique but at the benefit of having a specimen for pathologic analysis and minor risk of recurrence as the entire lesion was removed. Antibiotic ointment is applkied afterwards. If you think you are ready for skin lesion removal, please call us. You should also see your dermatologist regularly for skin cancer surveillance exams annually.