What are Your Options for Treating Skin Cancer?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with skin cancer, it can be an unnerving feeling and you might not be sure of what to expect. Though learning that they have skin cancer is not something patients like to hear, the good news is that this disease is highly treatable if caught in the early stages, and there are several options for effective therapy.*
Many dermatologists will utilize surgical excision as a means to treat skin cancer.* In this procedure, the visible cancer tumor is surgically removed with extra skin around it (a ‘margin’) to ensure that the entire tumor has been completely detached.* The idea behind including this margin of healthy tissue is that by removing healthy tissue around the tumor, the chances of any cancerous cells left behind are very small.*
The removed tissue is then sent off to a pathologist, who examines the full sample and the margin around it to ensure that the tumor has been cut out completely, and that no tumor ‘roots’ were left behind.*
However, when skin cancer occurs in certain areas that are cosmetically sensitive (areas on the face) or where there is not a lot of excess tissue (fingers), an excision may not be the best approach.*
At California Skin Institute, we prefer using Mohs surgery instead of regular tumor excision in many cases, because though this procedure takes more time, it allows for more favorable outcomes for our patients, from both the health and aesthetic perspectives.*
Unlike regular excision, the examination of the tumor margin is performed right during surgery, without sending it off to a pathologist.* During Mohs surgery, the surgeon will remove the tumor and the surrounding margin.* This tissue is then divided into pieces and the entire margin is examined under the microscope.*
If the margin shows that cancer cells are present, the surgeon will remove another thin layer of tissue from the specific treatment area and examine it again.* The removal of thin layers will continue until the entire margin shows no cancer cells left.* This careful examination is what makes Mohs surgery so effective at treating skin cancer and reduces chances of cancer recurrence.*
Another option for treating skin cancer is radiation therapy.* This procedure is very fast, but regular sessions are needed (several times per week) for the treatment to be effective.*
During radiation therapy for skin cancer, a beam of charged particles is aimed at the tumor.* As these particles pass through the tumor tissue, they kill cancerous cells. With enough treatment sessions, the entire tumor can be destroyed with virtually the same effectiveness as Mohs surgery.*
However, it’s not recommended to use radiation therapy for aggressively growing tumors, because the cancer cells can spread beyond the treatment area quickly and invade other tissues that are not being targeted by radiation. With aggressive cases of early stage melanoma, Mohs surgery may be the safer option.*
Which Solution is Right for You?
The best skin cancer treatment for each patient depends on their unique situation.* For example, when patients are treated for this disease at California Skin Institute, our doctors take many factors into consideration, such as; the general health and age of the patient, the aggressiveness of the tumor, the area of the body where the tumor is located, and any history of previous skin cancers.* These considerations are absolutely vital, because every patient is unique, and no two cancer tumors are exactly the same.* Having a custom-tailored treatment plan is one of the best steps to assure a successful treatment outcome.*
If you are concerned about skin cancer and would like to schedule a screening, or if you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer and would like a second opinion, please call a California Skin Institute practice near you to set up an appointment. Or, just click on the scheduling link below, and set up the appointment online.
*Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.