When determining the most appropriate skin cancer treatment, doctors take into consideration a number of factors, including the type, stage, location, and size of the cancer. The potential for metastasis and whether the cancer is recurrent are also decisive considerations. Patients must evaluate their own treatment options, and when given a choice select their preference and follow through with an effective treatment regimen.
With Mohs surgery, the lesion is removed layer by layer, and each layer is carefully examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells. This minimizes the amount of healthy tissue that is removed. Mohs surgery has been deemed by leaders in skin cancer a most effective treatment, especially for cancers on delicate parts of the body, like the face.
Electrodessication and Curettage
This involves using an instrument called a curette to scrape away the cancer cells from the surface of the skin. An electric needle is then used to stop the bleeding and to kill cancer cells by searing the skin cancer at its base. This procedure is most effective in treating superficial basal cell carcinomas and small squamous cell carcinomas.
Curettage with Cryotherapy
Similar to an electrodessication and curettage, the cancerous lesion is scraped away. Afterward, the area is treated with liquid nitrogen to kill any remaining cancer cells.
This involves using an intense beam of light to vaporize the diseased tissue. There is less risk of swelling, scarring, or bleeding than with other treatment methods and little damage to nearby healthy tissue.
Liquid nitrogen may be used to treat cancers that do not extend deep into the skin. The freezing process takes longer than when cryotherapy is used in combination with curettage. The process must be done with a great deal of care to avoid damaging nerves in the affected area.
During this form of treatment, a topical medication is applied to the skin to make the cancerous cells more sensitive to light. A light is directed at the affected area of skin to activate the medication and kill the cancer cells.
Early stage cancers that are still superficial may respond to anti-cancer creams or lotions applied to the skin.
Large lesions may require surgical excision in which the doctor cuts out the malignancy along with a margin of healthy skin. Depending on the size and location of the excision, skin reconstruction may be necessary.
Radiation is most often used for deep tumors, those that have a high risk of recurrence, and tumors that cannot be removed surgically. The therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells.