Skin Cancer TreatmentsIts crucial to catch skin cancer while its in an early, treatable stage.Learn which of the different treatments work best for each type of skin...
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It’s crucial to catch skin cancer while it’s in an early, treatable stage. There are different treatments depending on the type of skin cancer. Small growths that are close to the surface of the skin may be removed completely during the biopsy, but in some cases, surgery is needed to treat skin cancer.
There are several different types of surgery to remove skin cancer. The types of procedures include:
Precancerous actinic keratoses, as well as some small, early skin cancers, can be treated through cryotherapy. The procedure involves freezing the cancerous cells with liquid nitrogen. The dead cells simply slough off after the tissue thaws.
If cancerous tissue remains after a biopsy, the remaining cancer may be surgically cut out.
This surgery involves cutting out the cancerous tissue and immediately looking at it under a microscope to check for cancer. The steps are repeated until the affected area is free of cancer. This technique saves the greatest amount of healthy tissue and has the highest cure rate, about 98 percent or higher.
Curettage and Electrodesiccation
In this process, the cancerous tissue is scraped away and then electricity is used to kill any remaining cancer cells.
In some cases, surgery isn’t an option. Radiation therapy, which involves aiming X-ray beams directly at the tumor, may be used in those situations to kill cancerous cells.
Chemotherapy comes in the form of oral drugs or, in some cases, topical solutions that kill cancerous tissue. The treatment is also used when skin cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. The drawback of chemotherapy treatment is that it damages healthy cells as well as cancerous ones and can cause numerous side effects such as hair loss, nausea, and vomiting.
This therapy involves applying a photosensitizing agent, which makes cancer cells sensitive to light, and then exposing the area to laser light to kill the cancerous cells. Photodynamic therapy makes your skin sensitive to light, so you will need to avoid direct sunlight for several weeks after treatment.
In some cases, FDA-approved topical drugs, such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and imiquimod, are used to treat actinic keratoses and superficial basal cell carcinomas. These medications may help treat some superficial squamous cell carcinomas as well, but they are not approved for the treatment of invasive cancers.
Medically Reviewed by: Jennifer Monti, MD
Published: Apr 25, 2011
Last Updated: Jan 22, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.