After being diagnosed with skin cancer, depending on the type and stage of skin cancer, your doctor will discuss the treatment options available to you. Factors to determine treatment include size, depth, and location of the skin cancer growth.
Small, superficial skin cancers usually will require only an initial skin biopsy that removes the complete skin growth. In other cases, further treatment is required. Here are some treatment options your primary physician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon may offer:
- Excisional Skin Surgery – this is a very helpful and simple procedure for most types of skin cancer. After your physician numbs the area of the skin, the cancerous tissue is removed with a scalpel, along with a portion of the surrounding healthy skin in a wide excision. The remaining skin is examined to ensure that all the cancer cells have been removed. This is one of the more common ways of removing skin cancer since it usually leave the best cosmetic outcomes.
- Curettage or Cryotherapy – once most of the growth is removed, an initial process may be needed to remove excess cancerous cells remaining. Your surgeon will scrape away layers of these cancerous cells by using a curet. Then any remaining cells are destroyed by an electric needle. Alternatively, liquid nitrogen can also freeze the base and edges of the treated area.
- Mohs Surgery – this surgery is for any large, difficult to treat and recurring cancer in areas where it’s important to save as much skin as possible. Your physician will shave the growth is in thin layers and each layer is check under a microscope until there are no cancerous cells remaining. This way, he can remove all the cancer with damaging only a small bit of surrounding tissue. It’s sometimes recommended to undergo radiation therapy after to make sure all cancer cells are destroyed.
- Cryosurgery – small, superficial cancers can be destroyed by liquid nitrogen. Your doctor will use liquid nitrogen directly on the skin, which freezes and kills the cancerous cells, then dropping off your skin’s surface once it thaws. This treatment may cause swelling and may damage nerves, which can cause the treatment area to feel numb.
- Topical Chemotherapy – commonly, chemotherapy creams or lotions with anti-cancer agents can be applied to destroy superficial skin cancers. These anti-cancer agents include fluorouracil and imiquimod. Side effects can include redness, swelling, itching, or sore and sensitive skin. If these effects are persistent, your primary physician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon may stop this treatment. Chemotherapy tablets or injections are only used if the skin cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or in severe melanoma cases.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – a new type of prescription drug treatment that makes skin cells sensitive to light. After the drug is rubbed or injected into the skin, the area being treated is exposed to a special light, destroying the skin cancer cells. This is a great alternative to invasive surgery and there are no serious side effects from treatment.
- Radiation Therapy – This procedure uses high-energy radiation rays to kill cancer cells. Although it is not a common treatment for skin cancer, it may be used if surgery is difficult to perform or will leave an unsightly scar.
Skin cancer treatment may damage healthy skin cells and tissues, which can lead to unwanted side effects. Side effects will depend on the type and extent of treatment and will be addressed by your physician and how he can help to manage them. He wants you to feel confident in your skin cancer treatment, so don’t hesitate to raise any questions or concerns of the process.
It’s important to remember that recommended treatments directly relate to the type and stage of your skin cancer. So it’s necessary to receive medical attention from your physician to determine the best treatment for you. After skin cancer treatment, it is suggested that you should receive regular checkups for the first year to ensure all cancer cells have been eliminated.