Hearing the words “skin cancer” from your physician is terrifying. However, there are some important facts that may help you feel calmer if you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer.
The most common types of skin cancers are nonmelanoma skin cancers. They’re called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Both types are usually treated on an outpatient basis with a high rate of success -- especially if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early.
Melanoma, which is both rarer and more dangerous than nonmelanoma skin cancers, can almost always be cured if it’s recognized and treated early enough. But if it spreads to other parts of the body, it can be fatal. In most cases, the primary treatment for melanoma is surgical excision, often followed by other treatments.
Treatment options for nonmelanoma skin cancers
There are several treatment options for nonmelanoma skin cancers. Some of the commonly-recommended treatments for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma include:
There are multiple surgical procedures that can be used depending on various factors, including where the skin cancer is located and how far advanced it is.
- Simple excision: The cancerous tumor is removed, along with some of the surrounding tissue.
- Mohs micrographic surgery: The tumor is removed one thin layer at a time and each layer is examined for cancerous cells. The surgeon stops removing layers when no more cancer cells are visible.
- Electrodesiccation and curettage: The surgeon uses a tool called a curette to remove the tumor, then sends a small electric current through the area to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
- Shave excision: The tumor is shaved away.
- Cryosurgery: The cancerous cells are destroyed by being frozen with liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide.
- Dermabrasion: Cancerous cells are removed from the top layer of skin with a rotating tool or small particles.
- Laser surgery: The laser serves as a knife to cut away the tumor, without blood loss.
External radiation is used to destroy cancer cells. Radiation may be the best treatment for someone who is in poor health, elderly, or who has a tumor in a that would be difficult to remove surgically. Radiation may also be used after surgical removal of melanoma to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy
Generally, chemotherapy is used to treat melanoma that has reached stage III or IV. Newer treatments, such as immunotherapies and targeted therapies are generally preferred, however.
Immunotherapy, sometimes called biologic therapy, is a new treatment that stimulates the body’s own immune system and boosts its ability to fight disease.
Targeted therapies represent another advance in the treatment of cancer. These drug work by attacking specific types of cells and by blocking some genes from acting to spread cancer.
A combination of laser treatment and drugs, photodynamic therapy has a quite high rate of success in curing nonmelanoma cancers. Although you may need to avoid sunlight for a few days following treatment, there’s likely to be little damage to the surrounding cells.
Regardless of the type of skin cancer you have, there are treatment plans available at The Aesthetic Surgery Center. When you come in, Dr. Rose is happy to discuss the potential treatments, along with possible side effects. Book online or call to schedule a consultation where you can learn more about your treatment options.