Skin Cancer Treatment
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and is the result of the abnormal growth of skin cells that can form anywhere on the body, but most frequently appear on skin that is exposed to the sun. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the United States each year. Although most cases of skin cancer can be successfully treated, it is important to follow safe skin care recommendations to prevent this disease.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are three major types of skin cancer that affect different layers of the skin. The types of skin cancer are named for the different types of skin cells that become cancerous.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell skin cancer occurs in the basal cell layer of the skin and is the most common type of skin cancer in people with fair skin. It commonly occurs on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun, such as the face. It rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the squamous cells and is the most common type of skin cancer in people with dark skin. In dark skinned individuals, it commonly occurs in places that have not been exposed to the sun such as the legs or feet. While individuals with fair skin may have an occurrence of squamous cell carcinoma in sun exposed areas, such as on the face, head, ears and neck. Squamous cell skin cancer may spread to other parts of the body
Melanoma is the most aggressive type of cancer and is is more likely than other skin cancers to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma occurs in the melanocyte (pigment) cells within the skin and can form on any part of the body, regardless of past sun exposure.
Treatment for Skin Cancer
Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. Most options include the removal of the entire growth and are an effective form of treatment. Removal procedures are usually simple and require only a local anesthetic in an outpatient setting. Some of the treatment options for skin cancer may include:
- Mohs surgery
Depending on the stage and severity of the skin cancer, in addition to the removal of the growth, chemotherapy and radiation may be recommended if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Many moles and birthmarks on the skin are completely benign, and pose no threat, even if unsightly, to the person on whom they appear. Oftentimes, though, patients will want these moles removed because they find them unattractive. Fortunately, there are a number of effective removal options available today.
Depending on their depth, location and color, as well as the patient's skin type, age and other factors, treatment for benign but unattractive moles and birthmarks may use the following methods:
- Laser or Pulsed-Light Therapy
- Surgical Excision
- Surgical Shave
Warts are skin growths caused by viruses. Different warts respond to different treatments; some go away on their own. Salicylic acid products (in the form of drops, gels, pads and bandages) can help self-treatment of many warts by dissolving the keratin protein that makes up the wart and the dead skin above it. Others can be removed via liquid nitrogen freezing or electrical stimulation. Surgery may be recommended for painful or large warts that do not respond to these treatments.
Skin Tag Removal
Skin tags are little pieces of skin that stick out from the surface of the skin. Usually found on the neck, the underarms, under the breasts and in folds of skin in the groin or belly, these common skin growths are often the result of clothing rubbing against the skin. Most skin tags are acquired, although some people are born with them. Skin tags typically occur in people over the age of 40 and those who are overweight or have diabetes. They are also more common in women than men.
While skin tags are not cancerous and don't cause problems unless they are continuously irritated, many people nevertheless choose to have these painless growths removed for precautionary or cosmetic purposes. Patients are often bothered by them due to itching and sometimes even bleeding, since they can get caught in zippers, clothes, or necklaces and jewelry. Their removal is an easy, common procedure often done daily in our office.
There are several different ways to effectively remove skin tags, including freezing, burning and removing with scissors. Small tags may be removed without the use of anesthesia, while larger ones may require a local anesthetic. These treatments are usually effective in removing the growth, but may cause temporary skin discoloration or bleeding. Your doctor will help you decide which treatment option is best for you.