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Skin Cancer Treatment

A skin cancer diagnosis is something that no one wants to hear but once a diagnosis comes treatment is the next step. So, let’s go over the types of treatments for skin cancer.

First, we have to look at the type of skin cancer that has been diagnosed.

As we have discussed, the two most common kinds of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers. These skin cancers are carcinomas that have begun in the cells that line an organ. These skin cancer are very slowgrowing and account for most skin cancer cases. To diagnosis these cancers a biopsy of an area of the body is done, usually a part of the skin that has changed or doesn't look normal. If the biopsy detects cancer then treatment will be given.[1]

Mohs Surgery

The most common form of treatment for these two cancers is surgery. A surgeon will remove the skin cancer from your body, which can many times be quick and easy. If the cancer is completely removed with surgery then no further treatment is needed, but preventative action must be taken to prevent a second diagnosis which is more common once receiving your first. The most accepted and most effective surgery technique is called Mohs Surgery.[2]

This surgery was developed by Frederick Mohs in the 1930’s and has been refined over the years. “It accomplishes the nifty trick of sparing the greatest amount of healthy tissue while also most completely expunging cancer cells; cure rates for BCC and SCC are an unparalleled 98 percent or higher with Mohs, significantly better than the rates for standard excision or any other accepted method.[3]” It’s so effective because by using a microscopic technique surgeons are able to remove all excised tissues that occurs during rather than after the surgery.

Curettage and Electrodesiccation

 

This type of surgery is used when the cancer is in a localized spot and has not spread, usually an early diagnosis. A doctor will apply a local anesthetic to the cancerous area and will scoop out the cancer with a curette. The area is then treated with an electric current to curb bleeding and kill any remaining cancer cells.[4]

Other Treatment

While these are the most common type of treatment for basal and squamous cell carcinoma, there are others that can occur if the cancer is caught early enough. Cryosurgery, topical chemotherapy, and laser therapy can also be used on pre-cancers or cancers that have only affected the outer layer of skin.

If the cancer has not been treated with surgery, radiation therapy may be used to damage cancer cells and stop any spreading that has occurred.


Melanoma

Treating melanoma is much different than treating squamous or basal cell carcinoma because melanoma spreads much faster. If caught early enough where the melanoma has only reached the top layer of skin, it can be treated with surgery and radiation therapy. At Stage I and Stage II Melanomas, the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes and therefore wide excision surgery must be done where not just the cancer is removed but also a portion of the normal skin around it is removed as well. Radiation therapy is used and it is also recommended that all lymph nodes around the infected area are removed. By stage III, IV, and V, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and/or other parts of the body so surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted drugs are all options.[5]

Once skin cancer is diagnosed and treated, it is important to take precautions to stop another diagnosis. 



 

References:

[1] Rowe DE, Carroll RJ, Day CLJr. Mohs surgery is the treatment of choice for recurrent (previously treated) basal cell carcinoma. J Dermatol Surg Oncol 1989

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ross M. Campbell, David Barrall, Caroline Wilkel, Leslie Robinson-Bostom, Raymond G. Dufresne, PostMohs Micrographic Surgical Margin Tissue Evaluation with Permanent Histopathologic Sections, Dermatologic Surgery, 2005, 31, 6

[5] "Treatment of Melanoma Skin Cancer, by Stage." Treatment of Melanoma Skin Cancer by Stage. Cancer.org, 2015.

Misha Kaura