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Image by National Cancer Institute


The following is a brief introduction to some of the surgical techniques used in the treatment of skin cancer.


A biopsy is where a sample of skin is taken for analysis to determine whether it is cancerous or not. There are three main methods of conducting a biopsy on the surface

Shave – this is where a thin layer of the top of the skin is removed for analysis.

Punch – a small circle of skin is removed.

Incision – surgical blade is used to remove the tissue and some of the surrounding healthy tissue.

Excision / Wide Area Excision / Re-Excision

These are all terms that refer to the surgical removal of a lesion or mole on the skin. The surgeon removes what is called a 'margin' of healthy tissue around the site of the lesion to ensure no abnormal cells remain. Generally speaking, the larger the lesion or mole, the large the margin needs to be around it.

Flap / Graft Repair

This is a surgical technique used where the tissue that is removed is too large for the skin on either side to be sewn together. In the form of skin flap, a section of skin adjacent to the site of the lesion or mole is removed and covers the location of the lesion or mole. This technique preserves the look and feel of the skin and leads to quicker recovery times since the blood supply is left intact. A skin graft involves taking healthy skin from a distant area. 

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