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Treatment for Skin Cancer

Specific treatment for skin cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Location and 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
    Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer. It is used in most 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 -The tumor is cut from the skin using a sharp instrument called a curettage, then a needle-shaped electrode is used to stop bleeding and kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind in the edges of the wound.

    • Grafting - uses a skin graft to replace skin that is damaged when cancer is removed

    • Laser therapy - using a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells

    • 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 edges of the tumor to make sure no cancer cells remain.

    • Simple excision - cutting the cancer from the skin along with some of the healthy tissue around it

    • Dermabrasion - removing the top layer of skin using a rotating wheel or small particles to rub away skin cells

  • Radiation therapy
    Radiation therapy uses a radiation machine that emits x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

  • Electrochemotherapy
    Electrochemotherapy uses a combination of chemotherapy and electrical pulses to treat certain skin cancers.

  • Other types of treatment include:

    • Chemotherapy - treatment with drugs to destroy 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 (sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy, or immunotherapy)
    Biological therapy tries to get your own body to fight 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.

  • Photodynamic therapy
    Photodynamic therapy uses a certain type of light and a special chemical to kill cancer cells.

  • Immunotherapy
    Immunotherapy of melanoma involves injecting a medication (called interferon) to boost the body's own immune system, helping it to slow the growth of the cancer.