Surgery Overview

Curettage is the process of scraping skin with a spoon-shaped
instrument (curette) to remove skin tissue. Electrosurgery is the burning of skin
tissue with an electric current that runs through a metal instrument or needle.
Electrosurgery may be done after curettage to control bleeding and destroy any
remaining cancer cells. The wound is then covered with an antibiotic

The skin is numbed with a
local anesthetic before the procedure. Curettage and
electrosurgery may be repeated once or twice or may be combined with other
procedures, such as

What To Expect After Surgery

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:

  • Treat cancers on the outermost skin layer
    (superficial), especially if they are in an area where appearance is not a
  • Remove a
    small basal cell carcinoma.
  • Remove a
    squamous cell carcinoma in its earliest, noninvasive
    form (in situ, Bowen).
  • Remove a new skin cancer.

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 (0.4 in.) wide. The cure rate is about 84 out of 100 if the cancer is larger than 2 cm (0.8 in.) wide.footnote 1 This procedure is
most effective 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

  • Skin changes, such as scarred or tight skin,
    slightly indented or raised skin, or change in skin color to red or
  • Bleeding.
  • Pain.
  • Infection.
  • Recurrence
    of skin cancer.

What To Think About

Curettage and electrosurgery is a common treatment method for a
basal cell carcinoma less than
5 mm (0.2 in.) in diameter.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.



  1. 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.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Amy McMichael, MD – Dermatology

Current as ofMay 3, 2017