Skin cancers are more common than you might think; about one in five Americans develops skin cancer at some point during their lives, and more than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, affecting more than 2 million people. This means you should ask a dermatologist about any growths on skin anywhere on your body, and perform regular self exams to screen for abnormalities. However, you shouldn’t panic even if you do find something; if used early, most skin cancer treatment options are highly effective. Even the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma, is highly curable if detected in its early stages (it’s when advanced melanoma spreads to the lymph nodes and internal organs that it is far more likely to result in death).
If a dermatologist does discover that you have a cancerous skin growth, there are several skin cancer treatment options you might consider. Of course, you should discuss any treatment plan with your doctor, but here are some brief explanations to aid you in your research:
- Curette Scraping
This treatment for skin cancer is minimally invasive, as the tissue in question is simply scraped off using a tool called a curette. The area is then cauterized and allowed to heal.
- Nitrogen Freezing
Liquid nitrogen can be used to actually freeze off skin growths. If you’re having trouble imagining how that works, remember than similar treatments are used to remove warts and other skin growths.
- Surgical Treatment
Surgical treatment is used in the relatively rare occurrences when skin cancer spreads beyond the initial site on the skin. This can happen with basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, but is far more common in cases of melanoma. Regardless, the tumor is fully removed, as well as a small amount of surrounding tissue.
- Radiation Therapy
This is a good treatment option for many patients, but it’s also frequently misunderstood. Radiation treatment for skin cancer is sometimes confused by patients with chemotherapy. The latter is used to treat internal cancers (usually in the medium of a pill or intravenous drug), while the former is a completely external and non-invasive treatment. Electron beam radiation therapy can be used across multiple sessions to remove skin abnormalities, but is far less likely to leave scarring that other options. That makes it a good choice for highly visible areas such as the face or chest. And since it can be highly effective (up to 98%), patients have both clinical and cosmetic reasons to consider it.
Do you have any other questions about skin cancer treatment options? Ask or share your own experiences in the comments.