Skin Cancer Surgery

Even though most skin cancers can be treated effectively, waiting months for treatment after being diagnosed often creates anxiety. Our Royal College-certified plastic surgeons at The Centre for Minor Surgery (CFMS) understand that waiting for skin cancer surgery is frustrating and creates undue stress and anxiety for patients and family members. At our Toronto practice, we can treat patients who already have referrals within weeks rather than months. We provide skin cancer patients from Barrie, Mississauga, Kitchener, Oakville, and nearby Ontario communities with the peace of mind that comes with removing cancerous skin lesions as soon as possible.

Shorten the Wait Time with an Existing Referral.

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Skin Cancer Treatment Options

The treatment plan used by our surgeons depends on several factors, including the type of skin cancer diagnosed and the size and location of the growth. Not all unusual skin growths are cancerous. Benign (noncancerous) growths include dermatofibromas, moles, skin tags, and warts, which our surgeons also treat. Changes to cells in the skin can also result in precancerous conditions called actinic keratoses. These growths may develop into skin cancer.

In some cases, though, changes to skin cells result in non-melanoma skin cancer. Except for rare exceptions, the 2 types of non-melanoma skin cancers are:

Basal cell carcinoma: The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma makes up about 75% to 80% of diagnosed skin cancers. Basal cells are found in the skin’s top layer, called the epidermis. This type of cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body and is typically diagnosed on the face, neck, and scalp, but can occur on all body areas, including those not thought of as being exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer makes up about 20% of skin cancers. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas tend to grow slowly, but squamous cell carcinoma grows more rapidly than BCC. Neither are considered life-threatening when detected early and treated. Left untreated, however, squamous cell carcinoma may spread to the skin’s deeper layers and may become deadly.

Melanoma: The least common type of skin cancer—and the most serious—is melanoma. Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) and can result in death if not diagnosed and treated immediately. People with numerous moles and fair complexions have a higher risk of developing melanoma and should have regular checkups with a dermatologist.

Surgical Excision

Our surgeons typically treat patients with either BCC or SCC by removing the cancerous cells and some healthy tissue around them, a treatment called surgical excision. They perform the procedure by numbing the area with a local anesthetic, using a scalpel to carefully remove the cancer, and then suturing the excision site. They make the incisions as small as possible while removing a margin of healthy skin to ensure all of the cancer has been eliminated.

We send the removed cells to a lab, which either confirms the diseased cells are completely gone or that additional surgery is needed.

Curettage and Electrodesiccation

For smaller tumours that pose less risk, your surgeon may use a sharp instrument called a curette to shave off the cancer and then use an electrical current to destroy any remaining diseased cells. A local anesthetic numbs the area before the surgeon begins the procedure.

Skin Flap Grafting

For larger, more complex cases, our surgeons may use a skin reconstruction technique which involves grafting a flap of skin to where they removed the cancerous tumour. A skin flap is tissue, fat, and muscle with its own blood supply that’s used to reconstruct large wounds for cosmetic purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can skin cancer kill me?

Yes. Squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and lead to death. Few people die from basal cell carcinomas; however, it can be severely disfiguring if left untreated. In some cases, it can affect nerves and cause the eyes, lips, cheeks, and other areas of the body to function poorly. In rare cases, basal cell carcinoma has led to death.

Can I postpone my surgery?

Postponing your surgery can allow your cancer to grow larger and spread, complicating reconstruction and recovery. Squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma can be deadly if they spread to other parts of the body. For these reasons, we do not recommend postponing surgery. It’s also very important to be on time for your procedure to ensure that you have it as scheduled.

What will happen if I do not have my skin cancer tumour(s) removed?

Melanoma and squamous cell carcinomas can spread (sometimes rapidly) to other parts of the body if you do not have them removed. Although basal cell carcinomas do not usually spread to other areas, they continue to grow. In rare cases, basal cell carcinomas can grow down to a nerve and spread. Melanoma and squamous cell carcinomas also can cause death if they are left untreated and spread. These cancers are typically more disfiguring the longer they are left untreated and the larger they grow.

If You Have a Referral …

If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer and have a referral for treatment from your physician, you can send a copy of the referral to The Centre for Minor Surgery and schedule your appointment with us. This is possible even if you already have an appointment elsewhere.

To meet with one of the plastic surgeons at The Centre for Minor Surgery in Toronto, book a consultation using our online form or by calling (416) 663-9649.

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