A curette is a small spoon-shaped medical instrument used to scrape away abnormal skin cells in soft tissue such as those found in basal cell carcinoma, sunspots (solar keratosis) and superficial squamous cell carcinoma (intraepidermal carcinoma). The procedure involves a local anaesthetic and the tissue removed is sent off for pathology analysis.
Before the treatment, a 'shave biopsy' is normally performed where a layer of the affected skin is removed to verify the diagnosis.
After the tissue is removed the area is burnt or 'cauterised' (sometimes referred to as 'desiccation'), where a low level electric current is applied to stop any bleeding and destroy any abnormal cells that have not been removed by the curette. After the procedure is completed the affected area is treated with an antibiotic cream and covered with a protective dressing. The affected area of skin generally heals within a few weeks, leaving a pink or white scar. Since only local anaesthetic is used, patients are able to drive after the procedure is completed.
This treatment cannot used on any discoloured lesions which may be aggressive melanomas.
Results can vary, however the procedure has a success rate of up to 99% for basal cell carcinoma where the lesion is smaller than 1cm across and 84% where the lesion is wider than 2cm across. It is generally more effective on new skin cancers as opposed to recurring skin cancers where scar tissue is present.