Treatment & Care
What are the treatments for skin cancer?
There are several kinds of treatments for skin cancer, including:
Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer and is used in most treated cases. Some types of skin cancer growths can be removed easily and require only minor surgery, while others may require a more extensive surgical procedure.
Surgery may include the following procedures:
- Cryosurgery: An instrument sprays liquid nitrogen onto the skin, freezing and destroying the tissue. Sometimes, cryosurgery is repeated a second time to remove the growth completely.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation: This common type of surgery involves scraping away skin tissue, followed by cauterizing (burning or searing) the wound with an electrosurgical unit.
- Excision: A scalpel (sharp surgical instrument) cuts out and removes the growth. The wound is usually stitched or held closed with skin clips.
- Mohs microscopically controlled surgery: This type of surgery involves removing a lesion, layer by layer. Each piece of excised (removed) tissue is examined under a microscope. Tissue is progressively excised until no tumor cells are seen. The goal of this type of surgery is to remove all of the malignant cells and as little normal tissue as possible. It is often used with recurrent tumors.
- Laser therapy: Laser surgery uses a narrow and focused beam of light to remove cancer cells and is often used with tumors located on the outer layer of skin.
In radiation therapy, x-rays are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given topically (as a cream or lotion) or systemically (administered orally or through an IV).
Electrochemotherapy uses a combination of chemotherapy and electrical pulses to treat cancer.
Photodynamic therapy kills cancer cells by using a drug, called a photosensitizing agent, that is activated by exposure to light.
Immunotherapy of melanoma
Immunotherapy combines various approaches to boost the body's own immune system, helping it to slow cancer growth.