Curettage and Desiccation for Skin Cancer

In curettage and desiccation, superficial, uncomplicated skin cancers are removed by scraping the affected area using a spoon-shaped instrument known as a curette. After it has been scraped, the wound typically is cauterized to increase the likelihood for successful treatment and to minimize bleeding.

Why choose curettage and desiccation?

Curettage and desiccation often is effective on small, superficial basal and squamous cell carcinomas with well-defined borders. It often is used on the trunk and other areas of the body where the scars introduced by this treatment alternative will not be objectionable.

Curettage and desiccation also is a good choice for patients who cannot tolerate more involved surgical procedures. With a high cure rate in the treatment of carefully selected skin cancers, this treatment method is efficient and cost-effective.

Possible risks

As with any skin cancer treatment, there are risks associated with curettage and desiccation, though they are minimized in the hands of a qualified ASDS dermatologist. Risks include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Crusting
  • Cancer recurrence
  • The need for additional tumor treatments

What you should know 

The treatment area is numbed with a local anesthetic. A curette is then used to remove abnormal cells by scraping the skin. Dessication, which uses small bursts of electrical current to cauterize tissue, is then performed. The wound is typically is allowed to heal without sutures.

What to expect after the procedure

Recovery time typically is minimal, and most patients can drive themselves home after the procedure. Since wounds typically take several weeks to heal, patients are given instructions regarding the cleansing and bandaging of the wound to facilitate healing. 

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, an ASDS dermatologist will review the patient's medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is also the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks/benefits and outcomes of the procedure. Patients also should alert the doctor to their use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements.