Of all the different types of cancer, skin cancer is one of the most common. Often occurring in people whose skin is left exposed to the sun for long periods of time without protective sunscreen, it can turn deadly in some instances. However, most cases can be successfully treated through outpatient surgery or simply in a dermatologist’s office. To learn more about the various treatments for skin cancer, here are some of the most common.
The primary type of treatment for most skin cancers, surgery is often used when you would have either basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. Usually done on an outpatient basis and with a local anesthetic, a dermatologist most often performs the surgery, unless the case is extremely complex. When skin cancer surgery is performed, cancer cells, as well as some skin surrounding the cancerous area, are removed.
One of the most innovative skin cancer treatments available today, topical chemotherapy will be used to treat basal cell carcinoma or actinic keratoses. Using a chemotherapy cream, you will apply this directly to your skin tumor twice daily for as little as three weeks or as long as 12 weeks. Generally, this is used for very superficial cases of skin cancer.
Often used following skin cancer surgery, radiation therapy will be used if you had lymph nodes removed during surgery to kill any cancer cells that may still be in the affected area of your body. Additionally, it is also used when cancer returns or when it metastasizes and spreads to your bones or brain.
If your doctor recommends immunotherapy, you will be prescribed various medications made to quickly attack cancer cells. Often used in cases of advanced melanoma, the drugs you would take would stimulate very rapid growth of your body’s immune cells, allowing the immune cells to recognize cancer cells that may be disguising themselves as healthy cells.
Combining medication with specialized forms of light, photodynamic therapy is a skin cancer treatment that shows tremendous promise. If you are using this therapy, your doctor will apply a light-sensitive medication to your skin tumor. 18-24 hours later, a special blue light will activate the medication so that it kills the cancer cells. Most often, this will be used to treat precancerous growths that may eventually turn into squamous cell carcinoma.
By having regular checkups with a dermatologist, you can catch most types of skin cancer very early and begin receiving the treatment you need to have a full recovery.