Specific treatment for skin cancer will be determined by your physician based on:
your age, overall health, and medical history
extent of the disease
your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
expectations for the course of the disease
your opinion or preference
There are several kinds of treatments for skin cancer, including the following:
Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer. It is used in most treated cases. Some types of skin cancer growths can be removed very easily and require only very minor surgery, while others may require a more extensive surgical procedure. Surgery may include the following procedures:
cryosurgery - freezing the tumor, which kills cancer cells.
electrodesiccation and curettage - using an electric current to dehydrate the lesion and removing it with a sharp instrument.
laser therapy - using a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells. This is considered more useful for squamous cell cancers and only very superficial basal cell cancers.
Mohs micrographic surgery - removing the cancer and as little normal tissue as possible. During this surgery, the physician removes the cancer and then uses a microscope to look at the cancerous area to make certain no cancer cells remain.
simple excision - cutting the cancer from the skin along with some of the healthy tissue around it.
grafting - uses a skin graft to replace skin that is damaged when cancer is removed. This can be done following any other type of surgery for skin cancer.
external radiation (external beam therapy)
A treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.
Electrochemotherapy uses a combination of chemotherapy and electrical pulses to treat cancer.
Other types of treatment include:
chemotherapy - the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells.
topical chemotherapy - chemotherapy given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.
systemic chemotherapy - chemotherapy taken by pill, or needle injection into a vein or muscle.
biological therapy (also called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy, immunotherapy, or immunotherapy) - fights cancer by using materials made by your own body, or made in a laboratory, to boost, direct, or restore your body's natural defenses against disease.
Interferon - a biological drug used to treat melanoma. Interferon boosts the body’s own immune system, helping it to slow the growth of the cancer. Side effects may include flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, and headache) and temporary liver problems. However, each individual may experience side effects differently.
Interleukin - a biological drug used to treat advanced stages of melanoma. Interleukin boosts the body’s own immune system, helping it to slow the growth of the cancer. Side effects may include flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, and headache), swelling, and change in blood counts. However, each individual may experience side effects differently.
photodynamic therapy (PDT) - a type of laser treatment that involves injecting photosensitizing chemicals into the bloodstream. Cells throughout the body absorb the chemicals. The chemicals collect and stay longer in the cancer cells, than in the healthy cells. At the right time, when the healthy cells surrounding the tumor may already be relatively free of the chemical, the light of a laser can be focused directly on the tumor. As the cells absorb the light, a chemical reaction destroys the cancer cells.