What are the Treatments for Skin Cancer?

Treatment of different types of skin cancer will depend on the location of the cancer cells and the progress of the condition. Among the most common skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, treatment is often more effective with early detection. Some treatments might include surgery, laser therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, topical treatments, biological therapy, and photodynamic therapy.

If left untreated, the cancer cells can affect the surrounding tissue and metastasize, especially if the individual has chronic inflammatory skin issues.

Squamous and Basal Cell Carcinomas

The recommended treatments for squamous and basal cell carcinomas include the following:

  • Excision is the removal of the abnormal growth so that the sample can be sent to a laboratory to confirm that it is cancerous. Scarring is also treated after the procedure depending on the size of the removed tumor.
  • Topical Medications such as imiquimod and 5-flourouracil may be recommended, but the side-effects are considered before the doctor can hand a prescription.
  • Mohs Surgery is the removal of the visible tumor and the thin layer of tissue surrounding it. The procedure is repeated if there are cancer cells in the surrounding tissue, making sure to leave as many healthy tissues as possible.
  • Cryosurgery is the destruction of the tumor using frozen liquid nitrogen without cutting the lesion. However, it’s not recommended for invasive-type squamous cell cancer and will need several sessions before the patient is declared free from cancer.
  • Curettage and Electrodessication is recommended for small lesions by scraping off the tumor with a curette then burning the affected area with a needle.
  • Radiation is a therapy that uses X-ray beams on the tumors to destroy the cancer cells.
  • Photodynamic Therapy is recommended on growths found on the scalp or the face. The light will destroy only the cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue.
  • Targeted Therapy is recommended for advanced stages of basal cell carcinomas if it can’t be treated with radiation therapy and surgery. The patient is given targeted drugs such as sonidegib and vismodegib so that the abnormal growths will shrink.

Melanomas

Treatment of melanoma will usually depend on the stage and location of the cancer.

  • Stage 0 melanomas often require wide excision surgery or if it’s not possible, radiation therapy and the application of imiquimod cream.
  • Stage 1 melanoma is also treated with wide excision surgery on the affected area, as well as sentinel lymph node biopsy and dissection and adjuvant treatment after the procedure.
  • Stage 2 melanoma is also treated with wide excision surgery, sentinel lymph node biopsy and dissection, interferon treatment after surgery, and other medications.
  • Stage 3 melanoma requires wide excision surgery, lymph node dissection, interferon therapy, radiation therapy, removal of lymph vessels, vaccines and other medications, isolated limb perfusion, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.
  • Stage 4 melanoma will require removal of affected areas such as enlarged lymph nodes and skin tumors. If some organs are already affected, the individual will need radiation, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy.

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