Skin Cancer Treatments
Treatment is necessary to remove a cancer and destroy. The size and location of a skin cancer, the patient’s medical history, health, age and the risk of scarring help determine the best form of treatment for the patient. Skin cancer treatment is usually some form of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. In come cases, a doctor may suggest a combination of these methods to remove the skin cancer from the patient.
Common types of skin cancer treatment are:
Topical chemotherapy, where an anticancer drug in the form of a lotion or creams is applied to the skin may be the best treatment for cancers limited to the outer layer of skin, typically on the face, neck and ears. Two types that I’ve used are Effudex and Fluoroplex. Both were effective at removing abnormal skin cells and left my face looking like I had a severe sunburn until the skin healed.
The best treatment is probably radiation to kill cancer cells and stop them from growing. Radiation is often used for treating areas that are hard to treat with surgery like the tip of the nose and ear or as an alternative to surgery. Radiation takes longer to complete and has some other short-term side effects that the patient should be aware of.
When you have a skin cancer you may become concerned about the cancer spreading through your body and getting worse. Even though there are several effective skin cancer treatments, skin cancer can reoccur somewhere else on the body. Follow up treatments with your doctor, regular self exams and a periodic checkup by a dermatologist are important to catch skin cancers early. Following your doctor’s instructions is important to minimize the risk of skin cancer recurring again.
Small skin cancers, actinic keratoses and other precancerous skin conditions can be treated with cryosurgery. Liquid nitrogen is sprayed on the skin to freeze and kill abnormal cells. When the area thaws, the dead skin falls off. There may be some stinging when the nitrogen is applied, and there may be some pain and swelling when the area thaws out.
Basil cell and squamous cell carcinomas (cancers) are usually treated with surgery. Surgery is an easy and quick way to remove skin cancer and the recovery time is usually very short. One concern is to leave unnoticeable and as small scar as possible. Skin grafting may be required to minimize the amount of scarring if a large tumor is removed if the area where a cancer is removed is large.
Cancer involving the outer layer of skin can be treated using laser therapy. A highly focused beam of light can be used to destroy destroys cancer cells on the skin.
Even though there are several effective skin cancer treatments, skin cancer can reoccur somewhere else on the body.
Facial Reconstruction After Skin Cancer
Skin cancer normally occurs on areas of our bodies that are most frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face-so when surgery, like Mohs surgery, is necessary to remove a cancerous lesion on the face or other sun-exposed area, it is difficult for a patient not to be self conscious about their appearance. Facial plastic surgery is a reconstructive technique that allows surgeons to alter and add to the face to restore its appearance after skin cancer removal.
Choosing a Surgeon
It is important to choose a surgeon who is experienced in reconstruction techniques. Simply visiting a plastic surgery center may not be enough, as many focus on more simple cosmetic procedures such as lifts and tucks. Reconstructive surgery can be a bit more complicated depending on your needs as a patient and the availability of extra facial tissue or skin flaps or grafts from other parts of the body.
You may want to ask your surgeon for before and after photographs of cases similar to yours so that you can get a feel for their level of experience and the outcome that you can expect. A good surgeon will always be willing to go over these photos with you and answer any questions you might have.
Minor repairs to the damaged area can be performed under a local anesthesia and can take up to two hours to complete. You should be able to go home on the same day, although it is recommended that you have a friend or family member available to stay with you for the first 24 hours in case of complications. You may also be provided with prescription drugs for pain but recovery time is short and most people return to work within a couple of days.
Protect Your Skin from the Sun
To avoid future possibly cancerous areas from developing, you will need to follow the advice of your doctor and surgeon. Some good general tips include wearing protective sunscreen of 30 SPF of higher whenever you are outside, wearing a visor or hat to shade your face, and limiting the time you spend sunbathing or tanning.
You can also wear a daily moisturizer that can be applied in the morning after washing your face-there are many on the market now that provides some level of sun protection.
As an additional incentive to avoid over-exposing yourself to the sun, remember that excessive sun exposure can speed up visible signs of aging such as sun spots, wrinkles, and skin sagging.