How Much Does Skin Cancer Removal Cost?

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The cost of treating skin cancer varies greatly. One factor is the type of skin cancer you have — melanoma, squamous cell, or basal cell. Where the cancer is located and how advanced it is also have an effect. Another factor is the treatment method you and your doctor decide on. There are many ways to treat skin cancer, and the costs are very different.

Most insurance will cover skin cancer treatment. Insurers consider it medically necessary, not elective. Still, cost may be a factor in your decision.

Here's what you should know about six common treatments for removing skin cancer.

Excisional surgery

Your doctor will use a surgical knife to make an incision around your cancer to remove it. The doctor will make what's called a wide excision. That means taking a bit of normal tissue along with the cancer. The doctor will usually close the incision with stitches. This type of surgery is common for melanoma and for squamous or basal cancer on the arms or legs. Scarring is possible. The cost will depend on the size of the excision. It may cost upwards of several thousand dollars.

Mohs surgery

For Mohs surgery, your doctor will use a surgical knife or a scraping tool called a curette. The doctor will remove the cancer and a tiny bit of normal tissue. Then the doctor will use a microscope to check the normal tissue for cancer cells. The surgery stops when no cancer cells appear in the normal tissue. This type of surgery has the highest cure rate for squamous cell cancer. There also is less scarring. You will not need stitches. An average cost for Mohs surgery is $1,000 to $2,000. The cost will depend on the size of the cancer and the amount of tissue removed.

Curettage and electrodessication

First, your doctor will use a spoon-shaped curette to scrape away cancer cells. That's curettage. It is a good treatment for basal or squamous cell cancers that are on the surface of the skin. After scraping, the doctor uses an electric current to stop the bleeding. This also kills any remaining cancer cells. That part of the procedure is electrodessication. This treatment is not good for cancers of the face because it may leave a scar. The procedure usually costs a few hundred to several hundred dollars.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze cancer cells. Your doctor may dab the liquid nitrogen on your cancer. A scab will form. It will fall off days later. Cryosurgery can treat basal and squamous cell cancer present only on the superficial, or top layer of skin. If you have dark skin, it may leave a light-colored scar after healing. The doctor does no cutting. You will not bleed. The cost of cryosurgery can range from $100 to several hundred dollars. This will depend on how many procedures you need. (Some people have several skin lesions that need treatment.)

Topical medications

These are prescription medicines that go directly on your skin. They include ointments, lotions and creams. These medications can treat superficial basal and squamous cell cancers. They may also treat growths that are not yet cancer. There are several types of topical medications. Some kill cancer cells. Some stimulate your immune system to fight cancer cells. Topical treatment can last for two weeks to a few months. Cost may range from $300 to $600.

Photodynamic therapy

This is another type of topical therapy. It is best for treating what doctors call premalignant, or precancerous growths. Those are skin growths that are not skin cancer but may become skin cancer. Your doctor will put a chemical on your skin and let it dry. After it's dry, the doctor shines a special type of light on the chemical. This light triggers the chemical to kill the premalignant cells. After your treatment, you will need to stay away from bright light for a day or two. Treatments cost from $200 to several hundred dollars.

Adding in Other Factors

Many factors affect the cost of skin cancer treatment. These may include:

  • Where you live
  • How much your doctor charges
  • The type of insurance you have
  • What your deductible or co-pay is
  • Whether you need to stay in a hospital

Although skin cancer treatment is almost always covered by insurance, it's still important to check with your insurer before you get treatment. If you do not have insurance, you may be able to work with your doctor on a payment plan. Make sure to talk to your doctor about all your options. And, don't hesitate to ask about price.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 8

  1. Treatment Options for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/skin-treatment-pdq#section/_92

  2. Treatment Options. Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/squamous-cell-carcinoma/scc-treatment-options

  3. Wide-local Excision for Skin Cancer. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/Wide-local-Excision-for-Skin-Cancer/

  4. Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/Mohs-Surgery-for-Skin-Cancer/

  5. Curettage and Desiccation for Skin Cancer. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/Curettage-and-Desiccation-for-Skin-Cancer/

  6. Cryosurgery for Skin Cancer. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/Cryosurgery-for-Skin-Cancer.aspx

  7. Topical Prescription Medications for Skin Cancer. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/Topical-Prescription-Medications-for-Skin-Cancer/

  8. Photodynamic Therapy for Premalignant Growths. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/Photodynamic-Therapy-for-Premalignant-Growths/

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