Skin Cancer Treatments and Drugs
primary types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma,
and melanoma. In addition to surgery, there are several other treatment
options. It’s crucial
to catch skin cancer in the early stages. Long-term survival can depend on early treatment.
keratoses and 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.
There are several
different types of surgery to remove skin cancer. The types of procedures
How much tissue is cut
depends on the type of cancer and if it has spread to the surrounding area.
Sometimes the biopsy will remove all the cancer. If
cancer remains, additional surgery will remove what’s still accessible.
This surgery cuts away
cancerous tissue and transfers it to a microscope slide. The tissue is checked
for cancer cells. The cutting and examination continues until the area is free
of cancer. This technique saves the greatest amount of healthy tissue and has
the highest cure rate
In this process, the
cancerous tissue is scraped away and then electricity is used to kill any
remaining cancer cells.
involves aiming charged particle beams directly at the tumor. This therapy may
be used alone or in conjunction with surgery to kill any remaining cells. It
may also be used in advanced cases to shrink tumors and make the patient more
Chemotherapy uses oral,
topical, and intravenous drugs to kill cancer cells. This therapy can have some
unpleasant side effects. It can kill healthy cells along with the cancer cells.
is a protein naturally produced by the body that helps the immune system fight
diseases, including melanoma. Interferon may also halt the growth and spread of
cancerous cells. It’s given intravenously.
This therapy used a
photosensitizing drug (which makes cancer cells sensitive to light) that kills
the cancerous cells using a laser light. PTD will leave your skin very photosensitive. After the
therapy, you must avoid exposing the skin to sunlight for a minimum of six
Some topical creams used to treat precancerous lesions (actinic keratosis) and
surface basal cell carcinomas. These include five-percent 5-fluorouracil
(Efudex, Carac, Fluoroplex, 5-FU) and five-percent imiquimod (Aldara).
Even though not specifically designed to treat superficial squamous cell
carcinomas, they are sometimes used to good effect.
Other skin cancer drugs
- Ipilimumab (Yervoy) – Approved in 2011 by the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), this drug is for treating late-stage melanoma.
Ipilimumab helps the body’s immune system target and attack the melanoma cells.
It is given intravenously (IV).
- Vismodegiv (Erivedge) was FDA-approved in early 2012. This
drug is designed to treat basal cell carcinoma that has spread for those who
cannot tolerate other treatments such as radiation or surgery. This is an oral
medication. Pregnant women cannot take this drug due to a risk of severe birth
defects. Anyone having taken this drug should not donate blood.
- Aldesleukin (Proleukin) is for treating melanoma that has
spread to other parts of the body. The most common side effects include
decreased blood cells, stomach upset, weakness, dry skin, and headache.