Our dermatologists are experts in treating skin cancer, as well as benign and pre-cancerous growths, such as moles and even warts. Types of skin cancer treatment include:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the basal cells that make up the base of the skin’s outer layer or epidermis. Although it is the most common form of non-melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma grows very slowly and is the least likely form of skin cancer to spread.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer after Basal Cell Carcinoma, the other type of non-melanoma skin cancer, and forms on the squamous cells of the skin’s outermost layer, the epidermis. When diagnosed and treated early, squamous cell carcinomas are not harmful, however, if allowed to progress, this cancer can spread and become fatal.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, as it can quickly become fatal if left untreated and allowed to spread throughout the body. Melanomas are malignant tumors that occur in the skin cells that give skin, hair, and eyes their pigment, called melanocytes.
How do I know if I have skin cancer?
Cancer of the skin is the most common type of all human cancer, and it is important to have one’s skin periodically screened for the presence of skin cancer. Identifying and treating skin cancer as early as possible is important because, for example, early treatment may prevent the spread of cancer. Our dermatologists are experts in the identification of skin cancer and also utilize non-invasive techniques for identifying skin cancer. There are several varieties of skin cancer, each of which has a different appearance, and some skin cancers closely resemble common, benign, skin lesions. Skin cancer is found in every aspect of the skin, the scalp, and the nails.
Skin cancer is nothing more than a collection of abnormally dividing cells in the skin. They may or may not be pigmented, and they may grow only slowly over a period of months, or they may grow more quickly. Some skin cancers develop in the form of a lump, and some are flat and not appreciable by touch. While some malignancies of the skin may bleed, itch, or form an ulcer, other skin cancers may not be bothersome in any respect. A safe rule of thumb is that all growths on the skin should be seen at least once per year by a physician to rule out the possibility of skin cancer.
How is skin cancer treated?
The type of cancer found will determine the treatment options. There are several treatment options for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are the two most common skin cancers. In general, a physician must take a biopsy of the growth and examine the cells under a microscope before diagnosing and treating skin cancer. However, in certain limited instances, a biopsy may be completely avoidable and cancer treated by topical application of either imiquimod or 5-Fluorouracil cream. Most skin cancers are treated via skin excision. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are also treatable by freezing the cells, or burning and scraping away the cells after the application of numbing medicine to the skin. If cancer presents in certain areas, such as the face, a special procedure called Moh’s surgery may be necessary to help prevent recurrence and achieve the best cosmetic result. In other cases, the cancers may be treatable with either a CO2 laser, radiation therapy, or a process called photodynamic therapy.
Melanoma is another type of skin cancer that deserves special attention. Treatment of melanoma depends on the depth of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Complete surgical excision is usually the standard of care, and the size of the excision may depend on the thickness of the cancer. Removal of one or more lymph nodes is sometimes indicated. In other cases, the administration of interferon and other medications may be useful in the treatment of melanoma.
Other tumors of the skin exist, and treatment options will be guided by the type of tumor detected by the dermatologist.
What do I need to know if I have had skin cancer in the past?
Patients who have had skin cancer sometimes develop recurrent cancer in the original location or in a distant location. Patients who have had skin cancer may also develop independently derived cancers elsewhere on the skin. The new cancers may look nothing like the old cancers. This possibility makes it imperative that anyone with a history of skin cancer visits a dermatologist at least yearly for a complete skin check. In some instances, more frequent follow-up is recommended.
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