How Are Precancerous Cells Treated?

Some cells are not yet cancerous but indicate risk for cancer.
Precancerous cells are usually removed in order to stop them from growing.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The treatment of precancerous cells generally involves removal of the cells from the body. Most commonly, abnormal cells are found on the cervix or on the skin, since finding precancerous cells on internal tissues is much more difficult to accomplish. Cells may be cut or frozen off.

Precancerous cells on the female cervix are often found during a routine pap smear exam. This is a test performed by swabbing the surface of the cervix to check for abnormal cells. If any cells are found to be abnormal, additional testing may be done to determine if they are precancerous or if there is another cause, such as infection. Cells which are found to be precursors to cancer are usually removed to prevent growth.

Precancerous cervical cells are generally frozen off with liquid nitrogen. This is often less invasive than cutting away the skin and it allows the tissues underneath to grow back normally in most women. Occasionally this procedure may not be effective enough, so doctors need to cut away the tissues of the cervix to remove any precancerous growths. After either procedure, the patient is closely monitored to ensure that all abnormal cells were removed and that they do not grow back.

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Skin cancers are also often removed when they are in the pre-cancer stage. Precancerous cells on the skin may be visible, as an non-healing sore or mole. There are generally no routine tests to check for skin cancer, so individuals are advised to check their skin carefully for any changes which may become apparent over time. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, but it can often be found in the precancerous stages when detected early.

Much like in the early stages of cervical cancer, if a mole or skin lesion is suspected to be cancerous or precancerous, it is often removed. This is often done by freezing away small lesions or cutting away larger ones. An area of skin surrounding the lesion is almost removed to ensure that all cancer is removed. A biopsy is often performed post-removal to determine if the removed portions of skin are comprised of cancer cells.

Those who are diagnosed as having precancerous cells are often more likely to develop cancer later in life than those who have had no such diagnosis. Patients who have had abnormal cell removal should be closely monitored to prevent the possibility of developing cancer. Although scary, precancerous cells are generally easily treated and are much easier to cure than full-blown cancer.

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Discuss this Article

anon335510
Post 6

I'm trying to find ways to help prevent pre cancerous cells of the stomach and intestines. Can anyone tell me where to look for this info?

anon267021
Post 5

What about in the breast?

OeKc05
Post 4

I had a precancerous spot removed from my face, next to my ear. It felt rough like a mole, but it was nearly as flat as a freckle. Its unusual texture and appearance made the doctor suspicious, so he thought it best to get the thing off of my body.

He sent me to a plastic surgeon, who deadened the area. He then cut it with a sharp little knife. Though I couldn't feel anything, I could hear it slicing, which was kind of weird.

The spot turned out not to be malignant, but I felt good about having it removed. I will probably have any unusual spot removed, just in case it could cause trouble in the future.

orangey03
Post 3

That is good that they generally freeze off precancerous cells in the cervix can be frozen off rather than scraped out. I am at risk for developing these, because it runs in my family.

My cousin never went for a pap smear until it was too late. She ended up having to have her cervix scraped and parts of it cut off, because the precancerous cells had grown.

She said that she actually passed out during her first exam. Luckily, the doctor put her under anesthesia for the actual operation.

I cannot imagine having surgery on such a sensitive area. I have a yearly exam, so maybe I can avoid this.

Oceana
Post 2

@wavy58 – I know a man about the same age as your dad who has had to have several precancerous areas frozen off of his arms and face. It is true that they have to keep an eye on their skin for the rest of their lives.

This poor man had so many removed from his face that the whole thing turned bright red for weeks. Since he had so many spots on his arms, the doctor offered to remove them a section at a time. He also said he could wait until winter, when the man would be wearing long sleeves, so the red areas wouldn't show.

It must be scary to know that these cells are growing on your skin. I would want to get them off as soon as possible, but the doctor doesn't seem to be in any hurry.

wavy58
Post 1

My dad is in his seventies, and he has spent a lot of time working outdoors in the sun. Since his hair has been thinning for years, he has developed several precancerous spots on his scalp.

He went to a dermatologist last month who recommended removing the spots. He froze them off, and he told my dad to continue to monitor the area, because he should have any spots removed that develop there.

He also told him to come in for a checkup once a year. Since he already has had precancerous cells develop, it is best that he keep the situation in check.

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