Skin Cancer Treatment
While nobody ever wants to hear the diagnosis “cancer,” we are aware of patient concerns and provide a compassionate, efficient approach to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma skin cancer.
Treatment will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of skin cancer and stage; location and size of the cancer; and the patient’s general health condition and age.
Options include topical creams applied to certain types of cancers and surgical procedures such as electrodessication and wide local excision.
Blu-u Light Pre-Cancer Treatment
BLU-U® Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy is state-of-the-art technology for treating pre-cancers and skin cancers through photo rejuvenation.
Treatments are simple. Patients sit with the affected area close to the light for a short time – approximately 15-20 minutes for three sessions once every four weeks. And the treatment is covered by most insurance plans.
While skin cancer is an all-encompassing term, there are many skin conditions that can be identified, diagnosed and treated before they become cancerous. Our physicians are uniquely qualified to address such conditions as:
Actinic keratosis – a small, rough, raised area found on skin due to long-term sun exposure. Some actinic keratoses may develop into squamous cell skin cancers.
Actinic keratosis is usually found on the face, scalp, back of the hands, chest, or other sun-exposed areas. They may be gray, pink, red, or the same color as the skin. Often, they have a white or yellow scale on top. They begin as flat and scaly areas; later they develop a hard and wart-like or gritty, rough, and “sandpapery” surface—may develop a horn-like texture.
Because 5-20 percent of actinic keratoses go on to develop into squamous cell skin cancer, we encourage patients to have us examine them promptly and to follow our advice for treatment.
Pre-cancers may be removed by topical immunotherapy, Blu-u light photodynamic therapy, cryosurgery and surgical biopsies.
Basal-cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer. Approximately 3 out of 10 Caucasians may develop a basal-cell cancer within their lifetime – in 80 percent of those cases, on the head and neck. It rarely metastasizes or kills, but it can cause significant destruction and disfigurement.
Basal cell carcinoma may look only slightly different than normal skin. The cancer may appear as skin bump or growth that is pearly or waxy, white or light pink, or flesh-colored or brown. In some cases the skin may be just slightly raised or even flat.
In addition, there might be:
- a skin sore that bleeds easily
- a sore that does not heal
- oozing or crusting spots in a sore
- appearance of a scar-like sore without having injured the area
- irregular blood vessels in or around the spot
- a sore with a depressed (sunken) area in the middle
There are a number of treatment options: Standard surgical excision; - cryosurgery; and electrodessication and curettage (EDC).
One of our physicians will recommend one of these modalities as appropriate treatment depending on the tumor size, location, patient age and other variables.
Squamous-cell carcinoma – usually occurs in areas exposed to the sun, with chronic sun exposure being the strongest environmental risk factor. While the risk of metastasis is low, it is much higher than basal-cell carcinoma. Squamous-cell cancers of the lip and mouth have metastatic and recurrence rates of between 20 and 50 percent.
There are several symptoms, including reddish skin plaque, intermittent bleeding, hard and edges or a small ulcer (often on the lips) that fails to heal and bleeds intermittently. Your dermatologist is the best person to examine, diagnose and treat any suspicious skin conditions that have you concerned.
Diagnosis is via a biopsy. Most squamous-cell carcinomas are removed with surgery.
Melanoma – a malignant tumor of melanocytes (the cells that produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin). Melanoma can occur in any part of the body that contains melanocytes. They predominantly occur in skin, but are also found in other parts of the body.
The most common early signs of melanoma are:
- growing mole on the skin
- unusual looking mole or one that doesn’t look like any of the others (the ugly duckling test)
- a non-uniform mole with an odd shape, uneven or uncertain border or of a different color
It’s a good idea to become familiar with the American Academy of Dermatology’s ABCDEs of Melanoma:
A is for asymmetry: Draw an imaginary line through the middle of the lesion, either up and down or side-to-side. Are the two sides the same size and shape (symmetrical)? Melanomas are usually asymmetric, meaning one side is unlike the other. Melanomas can also be flat or raised.
B is for border: The edge or border of a melanoma is usually irregular. The border can be ragged, notched, scalloped, blurred or poorly defined.
C is for color: Benign (non-cancerous) moles can be any color, but a single mole will be only one color. Melanomas usually vary in shades of tan, brown or black. Sometimes they can be white, red or blue. They often have a variety of hues and colors within the same lesion.
D is for diameter:While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller. If you notice a mole different from others, you should see a dermatologist.
E is for evolution: Does the size or nature of the lesion evolve over time?
Though in the early stages, there may not be any tangible symptoms, sometimes a melanoma will:
- feel painful
There are actually different types of melanoma. One type can first appear as a brown or black streak underneath a fingernail or toenail. Melanoma also can look like a bruise that just won’t heal.
Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers but much more dangerous. It causes the majority of deaths related to skin cancer. Doctors diagnosed about 115,000 new cases of melanoma in 2010. The diagnosis is more frequent in women than in men and is particularly common among Caucasians living in sunny climates. Male or female, Caucasian or otherwise, it’s the most common form of cancer for young adults age 25-29. One American dies from melanoma nearly every hour.
Treatment of early-stage melanoma includes surgical removal of the tumor by a dermatologist. More advanced melanomas may require treatment by an oncologist or surgical oncologist. The chance of a cure is greatest when the tumor is discovered while it is still small and thin and can be entirely removed surgically.