If your doctor has diagnosed you with skin cancer, it is important to understand exactly what your option are to treat the condition. There are many different treatment methods used for skin cancer, so it's in your best interest to ask your doctor what he or she recommends and why. In addition to your doctor's recommendations, though, you should educate yourself on the choices so that you can be your own advocate if there's something that could work better. Here are some things you should know about skin cancer treatment options and what contributes to your doctor's treatment choice.
What Factors Affect the Treatment Choice?
When your doctor makes a treatment recommendation, he or she is considering many things. Here are the things you should keep in mind as you evaluate your choices.
- The type – some types of skin cancer can be easily treated with quick methods, while others can be more challenging and require more extensive treatment.
- The stage – advanced stages of cancer must be treated more aggressively than early stages of cancer growth.
- The spread risk – Aggressive forms of skin cancer are those that are most likely to spread to other parts of your body. The more aggressive the cancer, the more significant the treatment required.
- The location – if the cancer is somewhere that is particularly difficult to access or in a location where surgery would be risky, you may be more limited on your treatment options.
- Your health – Your health is a significant consideration in your treatment options. If you are not physically healthy enough to undergo surgery, your doctor may recommend another treatment option.
What Treatment Options Are There?
Skin cancer can be treated in many ways, from surgery to immunotherapy and even chemotherapy.
- Surgery - Surgical treatment usually involves removing all of the cancerous tissue. If the cancer hasn't spread to other parts of the body, this can be a quick and easy resolution. The surgeon will numb the tissue around the cancerous lesion, then will cut and remove the lesion as well as a small amount of surrounding tissue. The surrounding tissue is removed to ensure that there are no stray cancer cells remaining that could grow. In most cases, this is an outpatient procedure, but depending on your health and risk factors, you may be admitted to the hospital.
- Immunotherapy - Immunotherapy involves training your body's immune system to fight the cancer on its own. You'll be prescribed a cream or a gel product that you can apply directly to the affected area, and that will help your body to kill the problematic cells.
- Cryosurgery - Cryosurgery is a process of freezing the affected skin. When the skin is chemically frozen, it kills the cancer cells. Those dead cells then slough off, eliminating the cancerous lesion completely.
- Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy can be used in many different forms to treat skin cancer. In one form, you'll have the chemotherapy medication applied directly to the skin to damage the cells. When those skin cells are killed, new and healthy skin cells will grow in their place. For cancer that has spread beyond the layers of skin, you may need to receive traditional chemotherapy, which requires that you take medication either by injection or orally. Your body processes this medication and distributes it throughout your body to target the cancer cells everywhere in your body. This treatment has some side effects, including loss of hair, vomiting and persistent nausea. Those symptoms will subside when your treatment is complete, though.
Skin cancer is easily cured when it is caught in its earliest stages and properly treated. Talk with your dermatologist about your options for skin cancer surgery or other treatment.