A skin cancer diagnosis can be emotional and shocking. However, your dermatologist will be by your side to answer your questions and discuss treatment options. While chemotherapy and radiation might immediately come to mind when thinking of cancer treatment, there are other methods available to eliminate cancerous cells in the skin. Here are some of the latest skin cancer treatment options you should know about.
Dermatologists might recommend this surgical treatment for a variety of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. During a surgical excision, the dermatologist will cut the skin around the cancerous tissue. They remove the cancerous area and surrounding healthy tissue. Stitches are often necessary following this treatment.
Mohs surgery is a highly effective skin cancer treatment with a high cure rate. Dermatologists will often use Mohs surgery on patients who have an aggressive form of skin cancer or a high risk of occurrence. During Mohs Micrographic Surgery, the surgeon removes one layer of skin at a time while observing the cancerous tissue under a microscope. The precision of this process allows the dermatologist to remove the cancerous cells without damaging the surrounding skin, so it’s often an effective treatment for delicate areas like the face, hands, feet, and genitals.
Also known as freezing, cryosurgery is a treatment in which the doctor freezes the cancerous cells with liquid nitrogen. The tissue dies and falls off following the procedure, and healthy skin will take its place. Cryosurgery is generally reserved for skin cancers in early stages or for patients who cannot undergo surgery.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that uses light to kill cancerous cells. This procedure is also called phototherapy. During PDT, a dermatologist applies a medicated cream to the skin. Once you wait for several hours for the cream to fully absorb, the doctor will target the light at the area. The light activates the topical medication to kill the cancerous cells. Dermatologists generally recommend this treatment for actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma near the surface, and Bowen’s disease.
Curettage and electrodesiccation, or electrosurgery, is a treatment for smaller skin cancers or minimally invasive squamous cell carcinomas. During this treatment, the dermatologist will scrape off the cancerous tissue with a tool called a curette. They will then use a heat tool or chemical to eliminate the leftover cancer cells. This step can also stop the bleeding. Some patients will require multiple rounds of electrosurgery before the cancer is fully eliminated.
Immunotherapy, or biologic therapy, can be an effective treatment for certain types of skin cancer. Currently, the FDA has approved an immunotherapy drug to treat metastatic or locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma, as well as a drug for metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. This treatment uses the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer. There can be some side effects, so your doctor will determine if you’re a candidate for immunotherapy.
Here at Pacific Dermatology Specialists, we are committed to providing patient education on skin cancer diagnostics, treatment, and prevention. With offices in Seal Beach, CA and the surrounding areas, we offer the latest skin cancer treatments like surgical excision and Mohs surgery. Contact us today with any questions or to schedule a skin cancer screening.