What is Electrodessication and Curettage (ED&C, EDC, ED+C)

Everything you need to know about this skin cancer treatment

Dermatologist inspecting melanoma. Credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

If you've been diagnosed with a skin cancer, your physician may have presented you with various treatment options, such as skin cancer excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, cryotherapy, and electrodessication and curettage (abbreviated as ED&C, EDC or ED+C). 

For certain types of skin cancers, the electrodessication and curettage may be selected. Electrodessication and curettage is a procedure performed in the office setting by dermatologists and other physiciations for treatment of pre-cancers and skin cancers.

 The procedure consists of scraping and "burning" away the unwanted growth.

This procedure is often used for thin, well-defined cancers which are also relatively small in diameter, as well as pre-cancers. Common diagnoses that this procedure is used for include superficial basal cell carcinomas, actinic keratosis and squamous cell carcinomas in situ. This procedure also does not involve the placement of sutures, or stitches, and may be more appropriate for those individuals for which stitches are not optimal.

Is the electrodessication and curettage procedure painful? 

Your surgeon will use an anesthetic to numb the area. This should be the only time you feel pain. Most commonly, lidocaine with or without epinephrine is injected directly into the skin. Let your surgeon know if you have ever had a bad reaction to numbing medication.

What should I tell my surgeon before the procedure? 

Tell your physician if you have any implanted electrical devices.

  Additionally, let your physician know if you have a bleeding disorder and what medications you are taking.

How long does the electrodessication and curettage procedure take?  

The actual procedure does not take much time — usually less than an hour. However, take into account the time it takes to check in and to get you positioned and prepped for the procedure.

How is the electrodessication and curettage procedure performed? 

First, your surgeon will use a sharp curette to scrape the tumor.  There is a textural difference between the cancer and the normal skin which helps guide your surgeon in terms of the extent of scraping.  Next, a device with a needle-like metal tip is used to dry out the tissue using an electric current, in a procedure called electrodessication.

How do I take care of my wound? 

After the procedure, you will have a depressed wound.  The wound is often covered with an ointment and covered with a bandage which will stay in place for 24-48 hours depending on your surgeon’s recommendation. You will be able to shower and perform the wound bandaging as demonstrated to you at your visit.

Will I have pain afterward? 

The area may be sore since your skin cancer was scraped and “burned” away.  Most patients either do not need to take analgesic (pain relief) medication or achieve adequate pain relief from over the counter acetaminophen (Tylenol ®).

When should I call my surgeon? 

If you develop excessive pain, bleeding that will not stop, spreading redness, drainage of pus, fevers, chills or other concerning symptoms, call your surgeon as you may need to be evaluated in person.  Luckily, rates of infection and bleeding after the electrodessication and curettage are lower than after a skin cancer excision.

After your wound heals and a scar forms, let your physician know if you start developing skin changes around the area.  Skin cancers can return even after this procedure.  Regardless, you should continue regular skin exams with your physician as surveillance for skin cancer.

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