Do all skin cancers have to be removed?

Ask the doctor


Image: © AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Q. My doctor says I have a small skin cancer on my scalp, but it's not melanoma. Do I really need to have it removed?

A. It's true that melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, because it can spread throughout the body. You definitely need to have any melanoma removed, to try to excise it before it spreads. Two other types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are more common than melanoma. It sounds like you have one of those. They spread only rarely, but they do grow larger. Not only is this disfiguring, but delay in removing them makes it harder to remove them with only a minimal scar. And cancers on the scalp, when they become large, can be particularly hard to remove.

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