General Rules of Treatment
Treatment of skin cancer depends on cancer type, stage, location, patient’s age, and his/her general health state. It is a dermatologist - a specialist for skin diseases - who treats cancer. Methods of skin cancer treatment include:
- Medications and other
In most cases, surgery is the first option to treat cancer. Often only a small ambulatory procedure performed in outpatient ambulance is needed:
- Excision. Simple scalpel excision is all that is required to remove small tumors like basal
carcinoma. A cancerous tumor will be removed along with a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding
it under local anesthesia (anesthetic is injected into the surrounding tissue).
- Cryosurgery (Greek cryo= cold) is freezing the cancer with applying liquid nitrogen (-196°C) on the cancer. Cryosurgery is mainly used for small surface pre-cancerous growths, like actinic keratoses. The procedure is painless. After the growth falls off, a small pale scar remains.
- Curretage is the act of scraping the lesion with a pointed object. Next, electrodesiccation is applied to the area to completely dry it out and kill any remaining cancerous cells while also stopping any bleeding.
- Laser can be used to destroy small superficial cancers.
- Micrographic surgery is a procedure where a cancers is removed layer by layer and each layer is checked under the microscope for presence of cancerous cells, before proceeding. The method is used in large agressive cancers where removing all cancerous cells is essential, but keeping as much as possible of surrounding skin is also important (like on the face).
- A skin graft from the other part of the body may be needed after surgical removal of the skin cancer.
Chemotherapy means treating of cancers with anti- cancers drugs.
- In topical chemotherapy, a cream or lotion with anti-cancer drug is applied on the cancers. It can be used in small superficial cancers. Topical chemotherapy doesn’t cause systemic side effects, but usually results in local inflammation.
- Cancers that have already spread to other organs are typically treated with systemic chemotherapy. Anti-cancer medications are given orally, intramuscularly, or intravenously.
In radiotherapy high energy X-ray beam is used to kill cancer cells. It is usually used for cancers on the face that can’t be easily removed with surgery. The procedure is painless. The procedure usually causes temporary local inflammation. Sometimes notable skin changes develop on the treated area.