Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are the two most common types of skin cancer. There are several pathologic subtypes of BCCs and SCCs. For the less aggressive subtypes (including superficial BCC, nodular BCC, and SCC in situ), there are several treatment options. These treatment options range from topical creams (typically reserved for superficial BCC and SCC in situ) to surgery (including both standard excisions and Mohs surgery). Another treatment option for less aggressive BCCs and SCCs is electrodesiccation and curettage(ED&C), also known as ‘C&D’ for curettage and desiccation. ED&C is most commonly offered for non-aggressive BCCs and SCCs that are located off the face. This procedure is performed in our office under local anesthesia. Your dermatologist will numb the area locally with lidocaine injections. The tumor is then scraped off (curetted), and the remaining area is treated with an electric current to further destroy the tissue (electrodesiccation). Skin affected by cancer feels more friable than normal skin, and the dermatologist uses this distinction to know how wide to curette. This process is usually repeated once or twice. After an ED&C, you will have an open wound to take care of until it heals in. The size of the wound depends on the initial size of the cancer, and how far the cancer and subsequent curetting extends. Wound care typically involves keeping the area moist with Vaseline or Aquaphor and a dressing until the area heals in (usually within 1-2 months).
The advantages of ED&C over an excision or Mohs surgery include a shorter procedure time and some patients prefer a circular scar to a more traditional straight line scar from stitches. The disadvantage is that the cure rate from ED&C is lower than with excision or Mohs surgery because the procedure is not as deep and the tissue is not evaluated pathologically to ensure clear margins.
As always, your dermatologist at SBC will discuss with you which option(s) is best for you and your particular skin cancer and will guide you through the process.