Skin cancer patients have the option to do surgery, which is one of the most common forms of treatment. The goal of a surgical approach is to completely remove the cancerous tumor so that none is left in the body. When a tumor is removed, the specimen is always sent to the pathology department at Kelowna General Hospital. The pathologist will then confirm the diagnosis, but also inform the physician if the tumour was completely removed. A specific amount of normal skin is necessary (depending on the type of cancer), to be labeled “completely removed”. Unfortunately, sometimes we need to go back and repeat the removal of the tumour if the pathologist advised us that the tumour was not completely removed.
The other form of skin cancer surgery is called Mohs surgery and can be used with both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers. During the surgery, your doctor will remove a thin layer of skin where your cancer resides and tests it for cancerous cells. If it is positive, the doctor will continue the process until only healthy tissue remains. While this sounds like a long process, the surgery can all be completed in one day. Mohs surgery is unfortunately only available in Vancouver and Calgary, with varying waiting times depending on the cancer type.