For most, the words “electrodesiccation and curettage”, (ED&C) may be unfamiliar. However, if you suffer from any mild, shallow, and well-defined skin cancer (as listed below), an abnormal mark or bump, or from a wart, this procedure, performed at the Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta in Atlanta, GA, may be right for you.
Mild, Shallow, and Well-Defined
When we refer to “Mild, Shallow, and Well-Defined” skin cancers, what do we really mean? While it may seem subjective, there actually some defined and identifiable varieties of skin cancer that can be treated through curettage.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinoma (shortened to BCC) is the most common skin cancer both in the US and worldwide, accounting for 80% of US cases. Cases are typically found on the face and/or neck and are caused by excess sun exposure. However, not all BCC are equal, and only some of the sub-types can be treated with curettage: in particular, nodular and shallow Basal Cell Carcinoma.
Nodular Cell Carcinoma
Nodular BCC is typically defined by a bump with a pearlescent sheen and with internal vessels that are visible if looked at with a microscope or magnifying glass. Shallow BCC is identified by a pink bump on the surface of the skin that keeps growing and does not go away. These two skin cancers, due to their typically superficial nature, are treatable with curettage.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (shortened to SCC) is the second most common skin cancer, with over 70,000 new cases reported each year. SCC is usually found on the head, scalp, neck, or the backs of hands and legs, and is defined by a small, hard bump that is rough, scaly, and slowly getting thicker. This skin cancer, in particular, is common in those who spend a lot of time in the sun or spend time in tanning beds.
Warts are skin imperfections caused by a type of virus called human papillomaviruses (HPV). They are typically seen on the face, hands, and feet, and often go away on their own. However, some can grow severely large and take years to heal, especially some varieties such as plantar warts. So, treatments and electrodesiccation procedures can step in to speed up the process and prevent the further development of a wart.
This includes curettage, which can be used for shallow warts and even some plantar warts and is sometimes preferred over to other treatments due to the speed of the procedure. Curettage is an old, yet effective procedure for warts, and it has a high success rate and negligible rate of re-occurrence.
What Is Electrodesiccation & Curettage (ED&C)?
ED&C is a quick removal procedure used to treat shallow, mild skin cancer like the varieties described above, abnormal marks or bumps on the skin, or warts. This procedure is performed by first sterilizing and administering anesthesia (usually lidocaine) to the target area and then using a sharp tool known as a curette to scrape off the affected skin until healthy tissue is found. Then, an electrocautery device is used to deliver small amounts of electricity to the exposed surface, in order to cauterize the wound, thermally injure any cells that weren’t scraped away, and in cancer treatments, loosen up cancerous cells.
This process is repeated multiple times to ensure that the cancerous or infected cells have been completely removed. The more times the process is repeated, the higher the rate of skin cancer being fully eliminated (or for warts, the lower the possibility the wart will come back once healed). When the surgeon can no longer identify any affected tissue, the wound is dressed with ointment and a bandage and left to heal.
Why It Works
This method of treatment works for the listed cancers in particular because each of the mentioned skin cancers is relatively easy to distinguish from healthy tissue. Shallow Basal Cell Carcinoma is much softer than the surrounding healthy tissue and so is relatively easy to tell apart and comes out easily. Nodular Basal Cell Carcinomas typically have visible vessels/nodules that are easy to identify and remove. Squamous Cell Carcinomas are usually hard, dry, and scaly, and so can be easily distinguished from the softer, healthy tissue surrounding it. and scraped away.
ED&C has some clear benefits over other treatments, such as Mohs surgery or a traditional excision. For reference, in Mohs surgery, layers of a tumor or skin cancer are frozen and then removed in layers, inspected, and then frozen and removed further if more affected tissue is found. In a traditional excision, the affected area is simply cut out.
ED&C has some significant benefits over these two procedures. For one, it’s fairly quick in comparison to Mohs surgery or an excision, due to its relative simplicity, and most procedures take less than an hour. As well, recovery time can be shorter than either electrodesiccation procedure depending on body location, and since it does not involve slicing into the tissue, no stitches or sutures are needed. This means that the patient does not need to have repeated appointments to check on or remove stitches or sutures.
Is This Right for You?
If you feel that the curettage and electrodesiccation may be right for your skin cancer or wart, contact Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta, in Alpharetta, GA, for more information. Call today!