Cryosurgery Vs. Excisional Surgery: Which is Best for Me?


When it comes to treating skin cancers, there are several treatment options. These include curettage, electrocautery, Mohs, photodynamic therapy, and radiotherapy. In addition to these, two of the more common procedures recommended are cryosurgery or excisional surgery. Each of these methods has its benefits. Let’s break that down for you here.


Cryosurgery is an effective option for the treatment of pre-cancerous skin lesions, superficial actinic keratoses, and small lesions of squamous cell carcinoma. It may be recommended when other forms of treatments have been unsuccessful or if the cancer has returned. This surgery typically involves the use of liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze, kill and destroy skin cells and the surrounding skin. As the skin thaws, the cancer is destroyed at the cellular level.

Why it Works

Cryosurgery is minimally invasive, affordable, and has a low risk of infection. It’s something that can be performed during a quick office visit and is incredibly effective with a very high cure rate.

What are the Risks?

With cryosurgery, you can expect some scarring and discoloration. There is some pain after the procedure and it does have a longer recovery time than other surgery options. As the wound heals (slowly) it will scab over and eventually fall off leaving behind a white spot. Something else to consider: Because cryosurgery destroys tissue completely, you cannot take a biopsy to sample for diagnosis.

Other side effects include: ulcers, sexual disfunction, damage to nearby healthy tissue, blisters, and infection.

Excisional Surgery

When a surgical excision is performed, a scalpel is used to remove skin cancer and some of the surrounding skin.

Why it Works

This method is effective for lower risk skin cancers, and when caught early, this method can be used to completely remove some melanoma tumors. For more complex tumors, patients will be treated in a hospital with a general anesthetic.

What are the Risks?

The area treated will be stitched together leaving a scar behind. Depending on the size and severity of the skin cancer being removed, your doctor might recommend a skin graft as part of the healing process. Other risks include nerve damage, infection, incision opening after surgery, bleeding or swelling, and pain.

Is cryosurgery or excisional surgery right for you and your specific skin cancer? Request a virtual consultation with The Derm Group online or request an appointment by calling us at 973.571.2121.