During a wide local excision, the skin cancer and a small margin of healthy tissue around it is cut out, usually in a football-shaped ellipse. While the procedure is used primarily on melanomas, it also can be used to treat basal and squamous cell carcinomas. For small, well-placed tumors, WLE offers results that are both medically and cosmetically effective, offers a high cure rate and allows for microscopic examination of surrounding tissue. Wide local excision can be accomplished in one session, unlike chemotherapy and radiation.
Once the tissue has been removed, the edges of the wound are sutured together and the tissue is sent for processing and margin evaluation by a pathologist. Over the treatment area, a bandage will be placed, which should be kept clean and dry. The surgeon will advise how to clean, apply an antibacterial ointment and change the bandage on the treatment area. Stitches or sutures are usually removed 1 to 3 weeks following the surgery and pain can be treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever. Recovery time can vary greatly depending on the size and site of the cancer.