Excising squamous cell carcinomas: comparing the performance of GPs, hospital skin specialists and other hospital specialists

Fam Pract. 2012 Oct;29(5):541-6. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cms007. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Background: GPs have no defined role in the excision of squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). Current guidelines recommend that all skin lesions suspicious of SCC should be referred urgently to secondary care. Evidence regarding current management of SCC in primary care is limited. Existing audit data suggest that up to 10% of SCCs may be excised in primary care. GPs may be able to have a greater role in the management of SCC but more evidence is required before this can be advocated.

Objective: To compare the practice of GPs, skin specialists (dermatologists and plastic surgeons) and other hospital specialists in excising SCCs. Methods . A retrospective analysis of all SCCs excised in the Grampian region between 1 January and 31 December 2005. A total of 1184 reports were rated for source and adequacy of excision.

Results: GPs excised 23.7% of all SCC-positive biopsies. Whether the biopsy had been performed by a GP or a hospital skin specialist made no significant difference to excision adequacy. However, GPs were significantly more likely to excise adequately than hospital non-specialists (P < 0.001). Infrequent GP excisers appear to perform as well as frequent excisers in adequately excising SCCs.

Conclusions: GPs excise a considerable number of SCCs in primary care. GPs compare favourably to skin specialists in excising SCCs. The performance of infrequent GP excisers does not appear to differ significantly from that of frequent GP excisers. Further work is required to define more clearly the role of GPs in the management of SCCs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy / standards
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Dermatology*
  • Female
  • General Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Surgery, Plastic*