Excision of Skin Cancer

Excision for skin cancer

Surgery Overview

Excision is the removal of a diseased area of skin (lesion) along with some of the healthy tissue around it (margin). For this procedure, a local anaesthetic is used to numb the area. An incision is made around the lesion. The lesion and a margin of healthy tissue are completely removed.

The incision is then closed with stitches. If the incision is large, sometimes a skin graft or flap is required.

What To Expect After Surgery

Recovery from skin cancer surgery varies depending on the site and how much skin is removed.

How Well It Works

Treatment using excision for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) has a 89% cure rate after 5 years, while excision of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) has a 91% cure rate after 5 years.

For Melanoma, cure rates depend on many factors, particularly the thickness of the lesion. The earlier a melanoma is found and removed the greater the cure rate.


Risks of using excision to remove skin lesions include the following:

The wound may bleed, cause pain, or become infected.
Scarring may occur.
A skin graft may not heal.
All cancer cells may not be removed.

What Happens to the skin that is removed?

The specimen is sent to a pathologist to be examined under a microscope. This allows accurate diagnosis of the type and nature of the skin cancer. The edge (margins) of the skin where a lesion was removed will be examined in the lab by a pathologist to see whether any cancer cells still remain outside the area of skin that was removed. Ask your Doctor about the results of the lab report. It is important that the entire cancerous lesion be removed, because incompletely excised lesions have a high rate of recurrence and cure rates are lower for recurrent lesions than for primary lesions