What is laser surgery or laser ablation?

Laser surgery, also known a laser ablation for skin cancer, is a treatment that uses a high-intensity beam of light to destroy cancer cells. Laser surgery is an alternative skin cancer treatment to surgical removal of a skin cancer tumor. 

Who is a candidate for laser ablation?

Patients who have actinic keratosis, squamous cell carcinoma in situ or basal cell carcinomas only on the skin’s surface are candidates for laser surgery.

Laser surgery is ideal for patients who have lesions on sensitive locations such as the eyelids or face, as well as for patients who have weakened immune system and can’t handle the stress of surgery.

Risks of laser surgery or laser ablation

The most common side effect of laser surgery is redness or inflammation to the treated area. Redness may persist for as long as six months. 

There are a variety of other side effects associated with laser surgery including:

  • Pain at treated site
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding or crusting
  • Formation of bumps or cysts under the skin
  • Acne
  • Skin discoloration 
  • Scarring 
  • Infection 

Advantages of laser surgery or laser ablation

There are several advantages of using laser surgery over traditional skin cancer surgeries including:

  • Can be performed faster than surgery
  • Can be used on multiple tumor sites or delicate areas of the skin such as the face
  • Healing time is faster

What to expect during laser surgery or laser ablation

Your doctor will likely require you to avoid smoking for two or more weeks before and after laser surgery and/or you may be instructed to stop taking some of your regular medications.

During the procedure, your doctor will use carbon dioxide or argon lasers to remove the abnormal skin tissue.

Recovery from laser ablation

Your doctor will provide detailed instructions on how to care for the treated area. 

Instructions will include: 

  • How to apply and how many times daily you should use ointment on the treated area
  • How long the area will take to heal - typically more than three weeks 
  • Wear sunscreen every day
  • Use oil free make-up for up to three months after surgery
  • Keep new skin heavily moisturized

The treated section of skin will swell immediately after the procedure. Swelling may last up to three days. Within hours after surgery, the affected area may begin to itch and stay itchy for up to three days. After five to seven days, the old skin will peel off.

Find a specialist nearby

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