Skin Cancer Treatment
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Doctor's View on Skin Cancer Treatments
Comment by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD
Skin cancer definition and symptoms
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. Fortunately, about 75% of all skin cancers are curable and many skin cancers are preventable by reducing the skin's exposure, especially on the face, to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The major types of skin cancers are basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma cancers. Basal and squamous cell cancers infrequently spread to areas other than the skin but melanomas, if not treated early in their development, often spread beyond the skin. Signs of skin cancer (basal and squamous) are occasionally similar so the combined symptoms are as follows:
Melanoma signs and symptoms
Melanomas are aggressive and the following signs and symptoms are summarized by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America as follows. Melanoma skin cancer signs include new spots on the skin, or a change in size, shape, or color of an existing mole. The ABCD rule is another way to recognize abnormal growths:
Other potential signs of melanoma in a mole include:
Skin cancer treatments
Basel and squamous cell cancers are usually easily treated in office visits by a dermatologist using safe and effective methods such as superficial excision with a skin scraping tool (curette), heat (cauterization), freezing (cryotherapy), or low dose radiation of the skin lesion. Some clinicians use chemotherapeutic agents (5-fluorouracil or imiquimod) topically to kill these cancer cells. If these cancers do spread, surgical removal, chemotherapy, and radiation may be used in combination to treat the patient.
Melanomas occur more deeply in the skin and spread more aggressively to other areas and organs. The first treatment option is to surgically remove enough tissue so that the remaining tissue contains no cancer cells. Because of the tendency of melanoma to spread fairly rapidly, some clinicians recommend removing lymph nodes near the cancer site. In contrast to basal and squamous cell cancers, surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy will cure advanced melanomas but such treatments may reduce symptoms and slow the disease progression. Unfortunately, about 20% of patients with skin cancer have reoccurrences within 2 years.
Other treatments for skin cancer
Researchers are using different methods to try to treat skin cancers, especially ones that have spread and the aggressive melanomas. Vaccines, drugs (interferon, interleukin-2, ipilimumab) to stimulate immune cells, and genetic manipulation of melanomas are all being developed to treat skin cancer patients. Some drugs are available in clinical trials while others have recently been approved for patient use under special conditions.
Fortunately, the majority of skin cancers are not only treatable but curable. However, the best news is that many people can prevent or reduce the risk of getting skin cancers by taking simple precautions of limiting skin exposure to the sun with clothing, hats, and effective sunscreen application.
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Skin Cancer Treatment Resources
Doctor written main article on Skin Cancer
Last Editorial Review: 7/23/2013 8:27:33 PM