Treatment of Skin Cancer

There are several methods of treatment of skin cancer (as well as precancerous skin lesion actinic keratoses) and the method of treatment used depends on the size of the skin lesion, location, type and depth of the skin lesion. For example, skin cancer with small skin lesion, a biopsy that removes the lesion may be sufficient. However, large skin cancers with metastatic spread to distant organ will require removal of primary lesion and chemotherapy.

The following methods are used for treatment of skin cancer depending on the suitability of individual patients.

  • Surgery: surgical removal of the cancerous skin lesion is used for all the types of skin cancers and in majority of cases. The cancerous tissue along with surrounding normal healthy tissue is removed by your doctor. Sometimes a wide area may be removed while excising the cancerous tissue.
  • Freezing: this method is commonly used for precancerous skin lesion actinic keratoses and for very small and early skin cancer lesions. Liquid nitrogen is for freezing the tissue (can be called cryosurgery), which (the dead tissue) sloughs off after few days.
  • Curettage and electrodesiccation: This is done after surgical removal of cancerous tissue. The cancerous cells that may remain after surgical removal are scraped using a curet and remaining cancerous cells are destroyed using an electric needle.
  • Radiotherapy: when skin cancer is not suitable for surgical removal for any reason, radiation therapy may be tried.
  • Laser therapy: laser therapy may be used for treating certain skin cancers. A strong laser beam is used for vaporizing the small cancerous growth in skin without damaging the normal tissues.
  • Chemotherapy for skin cancer: sometimes chemotherapy may be used to treat skin cancer. Chemotherapeutic agents may be applied locally as cream over the lesion or it may be used as systemic agent to treat skin cancers with metastatic spread to other organs.
  • PDT or photodynamic therapy: in this method of skin cancer treatment, laser light and drugs are used to make cancer cells sensitive to light. Avoid sunlight for at least six weeks after using this therapy to prevent skin damage.
  • Special surgery: special Mohs surgery is used for difficult to treat skin cancer or recurring skin cancers, that may have basal and squamous cell carcinomas. In this type of surgery skin is removed layer by layer and every layer is examined under microscope after removal. Skin is removed until normal layer is found.
  • Immune modulators: in this type of treatment, immune system is improved with medications such as interferon and interleukin-2.

The suitability of the method of skin cancer treatment is determined by your doctor after considering various aspects.

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