Skin Cancer Treatment Approaches

Each type of skin cancer – just like each patient – is unique. Thus, we tailor your skin cancer treatment specifically to your cancer type.  City of Hope takes a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of skin cancer to deliver the highest standard of personalized care and achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients. We adhere to guidelines established by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) for treating all types of skin cancer.

Treatment for skin cancer and the precancerous skin lesions known as actinic keratoses varies depending on their size, type, depth and location. Small skin cancers limited to the skin’s surface may not require treatment beyond an initial skin biopsy   that removes the entire growth.

Other treatment options include:
  • Cryotherapy (Freezing) – actinic keratoses and some small, early skin cancers can be removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery); the dead tissue sloughs off when it thaws
  • Excisional surgery – appropriate for any type of skin cancer, this procedure involves cutting out (excising) the cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin; Mohs micrographic surgery is a specialized type of excision that allows evaluation of the margins during the procedure
  • Electrodesiccation and currettage – typically a fast and simple process, this procedure often is used to remove small basal cell skin cancers; the doctor numbs the area to be treated, removes the cancer with a sharp tool called a curette and then sends an electric current to the site to kill any remaining cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy – radiation may be used when surgery isn't an option; this procedure uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells; the goal of radiation treatment is to destroy cancer cells without harming nearby healthy tissue
  • Chemotherapy – uses anticancer drugs to kill skin cancer; for cancers limited to the top layer of skin, creams or lotions containing anti-cancer agents may be applied directly to the skin; systemic chemotherapy can be used to treat skin cancers that have spread to other parts of the body
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) – destroys skin cancer cells with a combination of laser light and drugs that makes cancer cells sensitive to light; PDT makes skin sensitive to light, so patients need to avoid direct sunlight for at least six weeks after treatment
  • Biological therapy – stimulates the immune system in order to kill cancer cells; biological therapy medications used to treat certain skin cancer include interferon and interleukin-2
  • Immunotherapy – a melanoma treatment that employs the body’s own defense system to fight cancer cells; City of Hope is the leader in the use of immunotherapy
 
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