Curettage and Electrosurgery for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Curettage is the process of scraping skin with a spoon-shaped tool (curette) to remove skin tissue. Electrosurgery is the burning of skin tissue with an electric current that runs through a metal tool or needle. It may be done after curettage to control bleeding and destroy any remaining cancer cells. The wound is then covered with an antibiotic dressing.
The skin is numbed with a local anesthetic before the procedure. Curettage and electrosurgery may be repeated once or twice. Or they may be combined with other procedures, such as cryosurgery.
What To Expect
Recovery may take 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the extent of surgery. Keep the wound clean and dry. A scab will form over the area.
Why It Is Done
Curettage and electrosurgery are done to:
How Well It Works
Treatment with curettage and electrosurgery for skin cancer has a cure rate of nearly 99 out of 100 for basal cell cancer that is less than 1 cm (0.5 in.) wide. The cure rate is about 84 out of 100 if the cancer is larger than 2 cm (1 in.) wide.footnote 1 This procedure works best on new skin cancers. It is less successful for recurrent skin cancers where scar tissue has developed.
Risks of using curettage and electrosurgery for skin cancer include:
- Skin changes, such as scarred or tight skin, slightly indented or raised skin, or change in skin colour to red or white.
- Recurrence of skin cancer.
- Carucci JA, et al. (2012). Basal cell carcinoma. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1294–1303. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
HealthLinkBC Files are easy-to-understand fact sheets on a range of public health and safety topics including disease prevention and immunizations.
Find Services and Resources
If you are looking for health services in your community, you can use the HealthLinkBC Directory to find hospitals, clinics, and other resources.