Skin cancer treatments are an array of procedures that may be recommended depending on the cancer’s size, type, location, and other characteristics. These treatments can range from a fast, noninvasive scrape biopsy to long sessions of intravenous chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The type of skin cancer treatment a patient receives will depend on the diagnosis and prognosis from their doctor and in consultation with the patient.
Skin cancer treatments can sound scary, but skin cancer survival rates are around 98 percent when diagnosed in the early stages. At the same time, skin cancer can be deadly, especially when ignored or undetected. The best plan starts with scheduling an initial skin cancer screening to assess abnormal skin spots. If the doctor finds a suspicious growth, they will perform a biopsy, test the sample for cancer, and proceed with a skin cancer treatment recommendation.
To get the process started, schedule an appointment at our Chesterfield office today.
Skin Cancer Biopsy
A skin cancer biopsy is the first skin cancer treatment patients will experience. Part diagnostic tool and part treatment, this procedure involves cutting out as much of the tumor as possible. The doctor will use a blade—a scalpel, razor, or surgical punch—to excise the suspicious mole or growth. The sample will then be sent to a lab for analysis to test for the existence of cancer cells. If there are no cancer cells present, the lesion is benign. If the sample contains cancer cells, your doctor will make a detailed diagnosis and recommend a treatment course. Skin cancer biopsies are typically conducted in-office during a skin cancer screening, which includes a physical exam.
Additional Skin Cancer Treatments
If your biopsy reveals the existence of cancer cells, your doctor will recommend additional treatment. The type of treatment selected will depend on the type of cancer discovered, whether the remaining cells can be biopsied, and whether it has metastasized. In most cases, your doctor will recommend one or more of the following procedures.
- Cryotherapy and Topical Treatments – Cryotherapy is a skin cancer treatment that removes skin lesions like warts, actinic keratosis, and seborrheic keratosis. The treatment works by freezing the affected skin, which creates a blister underneath the cancerous lesion. As new skin forms underneath the blister, the cancerous skin peels off. This is a fast method of removing less threatening but still potentially dangerous lesions with minimal scarring. It can also be used on harmless lesions for cosmetic reasons. Other topical treatments involve topical chemotherapy, wherein a chemotherapy cream is applied directly to the tumor, and photodynamic therapy, which uses light to kill cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy – This is a type of treatment that aids the immune system. Immunotherapy utilizes checkpoint inhibitors to target the proteins that allow cancer cells to disguise themselves as healthy cells. Put simply, the goal of the therapy is to help the immune system identify and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy is typically used to treat Merkel cell carcinoma and melanoma and can have side effects, such as gastrointestinal distress and skin rashes.
- Targeted Therapy – Targeted therapy works by targeting specific characteristics of a cancer cell, such as a protein or mutation in the DNA. The drugs used in this type of treatment attach themselves to cancer cells to help other therapies, like chemotherapy and radiation, work better. Targeted therapy is often used to treat melanoma and advanced basal cell carcinoma.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is generally recommended for patients who have advanced skin cancer, like melanoma or some forms of advanced Merkel cell carcinoma. The treatment works to slow or stop the spread of fast-growing cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered topically, as when used to treat localized basal cell carcinoma, intravenously, and orally.
- Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy is often recommended following a surgery. There are several radiation therapy techniques, but all are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells following an excision. This type of skin cancer treatment may also be recommended if skin cancer returns, as it can be useful in reducing its spread, especially if melanoma has reached the bones or brain.
When to See a Doctor for Skin Cancer Treatments
A skin cancer diagnosis is essential to receiving necessary treatment. The first step in the process is to schedule a skin cancer screening at our office. Whether you have a suspicious growth or want to build a habit of regularly checking your skin, this is the only way to receive an appropriate skin cancer treatment.
A skin cancer diagnosis can be scary, but most forms of the disease respond very well to treatment. Basal cell carcinoma survival rates are 95 percent, and squamous cell carcinoma rates are just slightly lower. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but when caught early, most cases are curable. Whether you have a suspicious mole or not, the only way to receive skin cancer treatment is to come in for a skin check.
Contact our Chesterfield office today to set up your consultation and start the journey toward better skin health.