Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin cancer treatment options are to help treat skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in men and women, with an estimated one million new cases expected to be diagnosed each year. The best way to protect against developing skin cancer is to protect the skin by staying out of midday sun, using sunscreens when out in the sun and to avoid using tanning beds.

Skin Cancer Treatment Varies According to Type

There are several types of skin cancer including basal cell carcinoma, which forms on the outer layer of the skin that has been exposed to the sun. This form of skin cancer tends to grow slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. A second form is called squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in the flat cells that form the surface of the skin and can sometimes spreads to nearby lymph nodes and other organs in the body. Finally, there is melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer that forms in the cells that produce the pigment (color) of the skin.

If basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas develop, there are several types of skin cancer treatment options that may be given including:

Surgery for Skin Cancer Treatment
One of the most common treatments for skin cancer, surgery can be performed by several techniques.
The first, called excisional skin surgery, is where the area where the skin cancer appears is numbed and is removed with a scalpel.
A second technique, called Mohs surgery, is where thin layers of the skin cancer are shaved away and simultaneously examined under a microscope. In this procedure only the necessary amount of skin that contains the tumor is removed.
Another procedure, called electrodesiccation and curettage, is often used to remove small basal cell carcinomas. A tool shaped like a spoon (called a curettage) removes the cancer and then an electrical current is released to kill any cancer cells not removed by the curettage.
Cryosurgery is another form of treatment where the use of extreme cold (liquid nitrogen) is applied to remove the skin cancer. Finally, laser surgery, which uses a beam of light to destroy and remove cancerous cells, is another common surgical procedure.
Topical Chemotherapy Skin Cancer Treatment
Typically used when the skin cancer covers an area too large to undergo a surgical procedure, topical chemotherapy is applied directly to the skin in the form of a cream or lotion to kill the cancerous cells.
Photodynamic Therapy Skin Cancer Treatment
This type of treatment uses a chemical cream that is applied or injected into the skin followed several hours or days later by a laser light treatment. When the laser light is applied onto the skin, it actives the special chemicals to destroy the cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy is usually used to treat skin cancer that is near the surface of the skin.
Radiation Therapy Skin Cancer Treatment
While radiation therapy, the use of high energy ways to kill cancer cells, is not a common treatment for skin cancer, it sometimes is used if the skin cancer is located in an area where surgery would be difficult to perform (i.e., ears, nose, or eyelids). Radiation therapy also can be used if the skin cancer returns after the initial surgical removal.

Treatment options for melanoma are discussed in a separate section.


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