Cancer care is an intensive process and involves many qualified doctors (also known as a multidisciplinary team) that work together to devise a strategic treatment plan for the patient. Along with the doctors, other healthcare professionals such as nurses, assistants, pharmacists, nutritionists and counsellors are major parts of the cancer care team.
Treatments and recommendations are in no way ‘one size fits all’ but instead are tailormade for the patient keeping in mind various factors such as the size of the skin cancer, its location, preferences of the patient, potential side effects and the overall health of the patient at that stage among others.
Enlisted below are some of the most common treatments for skin cancer.
Removing the tumour and the surrounding cancerous tissue in a medical procedure is a common way to combat skin cancer. In many cases, no other medical treatment is required to post the surgical procedure. These surgical procedures include:
Also known as electro-desiccation, where the lesion is removed with a sharp spoon-like instrument called the curette. An electric needle is then used to destroy remaining cancer cells and control bleeding. This procedure is efficient in treating basal cell cancer or thin squamous cell cancer.
B. Mohs Surgery
This technique is also called complete margin assessment surgery. Here, the doctor removes the lesion on the skin layer by layer and then examines each layer closely until all abnormal cells have been removed. This technique is beneficial when it comes to conserving the surrounding healthy skin as much as possible.
As its name suggests, this treatment involves cutting out or excising the tumour of the skin along with some surrounding healthy skin and the soft tissue (known as a margin). To reduce scarring and promote healing, surgeons use some skin from another part of the body to close off the wound. This is known as skin grafting.
D. Reconstructive Surgery
In case the skin cancer develops on the face, a plastic surgeon or a qualified facial specialist such as SunDoctors may be consulted to perform reconstructive surgery. The specialists will keep in mind how the patients’ quality of life will be affected by the procedure and build the best treatment plan.
2. Radiation Therapy
In order to kill harmful carcinogenic cells, radiation therapists or oncologists sometimes use high powered, high energy beams such as X rays etc. This method is often used when skin cancer isn’t removed completely with surgery or is found in hard to reach places. This technique minimises scarring and is recommended after surgery so that cancer doesn’t recur.
3. Topical Methods
If the cancerous lesion is located on the top layer of the skin, topical treatments are often prescribed by the doctors. These include:
In chemotherapy, drugs, creams and lotions are used to combat these cancerous cells by limiting their growth and ability to divide.
- Photodynamic Therapy
This method fights off skin cancer cells with the help of lasers and drugs combined. It is very effective for treating actinic keratosis.
Also known as cryotherapy, here skin cancer cells are frozen with the help of liquid nitrogen. Once the dead tissue thaws, it sloughs off. It is generally used for precancerous skin situations.
5. Targeted Therapy
In this type of treatment, the doctors target the specific genes, proteins or tissues that have contributed to cancer’s growth and its propagation. This treatment limits the spread of cancer and reduces damage to the other cells.
Patients must talk to their healthcare professionals for possible side effects of any these procedures. These can include pain, numbness, stretching of the skin, scarring, wounds infections etc.