Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Treatment

Specific treatment for skin cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history.
  • Extent of the disease.
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies.
  • Expectations for the course of the disease.
  • Your opinion, preference or goals.

There are several kinds of treatments for skin cancer, including the following:

  • Surgery– a common treatment for skin cancer, used about 90 percent of the time, often including the following procedures:
    • Cryosurgery – freezing the tumor, which kills cancer cells.
    • Electrodesiccation and curettage – using an electric current to dehydrate the lesion and removing it with a sharp instrument.
    • Laser therapy – using a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells.
    • Mohs micrographic surgery – removing the cancer and as little normal tissue as possible. During this surgery, the physician removes the cancer and then uses a microscope to look at the cancerous area to make certain no cancer cells remain.
    • Simple excision – cutting the cancer from the skin along with some of the healthy tissue around it.
    • Grafting – uses a skin graft to replace skin that is damaged when cancer is removed. This can be done following any other type of surgery for skin cancer.
  • External radiation (external beam therapy) – treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.
  • Electrochemotherapy – uses a combination of chemotherapy and electrical pulses to treat cancer.

Other types of treatment include:

  • Chemotherapy– the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells.
    • Topical chemotherapy – given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.
    • Systemic chemotherapy – taken by pill or needle injection into a vein or muscle.