How is Skin Cancer Treated?
Treatment of skin cancer is individualized and is determined by the type of skin cancer, its size and location, and the patient's preference.
Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas) include:
- Primary Excision - excision of the skin cancer under local anesthesia with a margin of normal tissue.
- Mohs surgery (for high-risk skin cancers or skin cancers in high risk areas) – excision of cancer with immediate microscopic examination to ensure clear margins- important to spare tissue and ensure complete removal of the cancer.
- Electrodesiccation and curettage – physically scraping away the skin cancer cells followed by electrosurgery
- Cryosurgery or freezing
- Topical chemotherapeutic creams
Standard treatments for melanoma skin cancer include:
- Wide surgical excision
- Sentinel lymph node mapping (for deeper lesions) to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes
- Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers) for widespread metastatic disease
- Radiation therapy for local control of advanced melanoma in areas such as the brain
- New methods in clinical trials
How Can I Help Prevent Skin Cancer?
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can somewhat repair itself, especially with on-going sun protection. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age -- for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by staying out of the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent skin cancer:
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater (for UVB protection) and zinc oxide (for UVA protection) 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming.
- Select clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.).
- Perform skin self-exams regularly (at least monthly) to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Eighty percent of a person's lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.