Skin Cancer Treatments

skin checkups arizona dermatology specialists

Each year in the U.S., over 5 million people are treated for some type of skin cancer. All forms of skin cancer are on the rise in the U.S and worldwide, including melanoma.

Melanoma is the third most common skin cancer behind basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, and has the highest fatality rate in part because it is often left untreated and unrecognized until it has spread.

Melanoma frequently appears as a mole on the surface of the skin, which continues to grow and become darker or have a “play” of colors, as well as irregular borders, and/or bleeds. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer in California and usually appears on areas of skin that are frequently exposed to the sun. Squamous cell carcinoma starts on the surface of the skin, and, if untreated, can spread internally. Actinic keratosis is generally considered a pre-cancer—developing slowly, sometimes progressing into squamous cell carcinoma.

These cancers are rarely fatal, but some can result in disfigurement if left untreated. For more detailed information on various types of skin cancer moles, including warning signs and early skin cancer symptoms, contact our skin cancer surgery center at West Dermatology through our online contact form or by calling 888-554-8740. We have locations in Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Monthly Skin Cancer Self-Check Tips

Some tips for a thorough self-check include:

  • Examine yourself in a well-lit room after shower or bath.
  • Rough, dry patches that are red or pink
  • Ask a friend or spouse to check hard-to-see areas, such as your back.
  • Look at all of your skin, even those areas not regularly exposed to sun.
  • Learn more about Skin Cancer Screening

What are you looking for?

  • Smooth, waxy, or pearly lumps
  • Rough, dry patches that are red or pink
  • Moles that are: unfamiliar, growing, asymmetrical, blurry or frayed, various shades, crusty, and/or bleeding
  • Look at all of your skin, even those areas not regularly exposed to the sun.

To learn more about skin cancer moles, visit WebMD.com.

Treatments with our Skin Cancer Surgery Center

The whole team at our skin cancer surgery center at West Dermatology in Arizona, Nevada, and California will listen compassionately and address all your concerns, so your experience is as comfortable as possible. We will explain your skin cancer treatment options in a professional, easy-to-understand manner, and help you decide which skin cancer treatment best fits your lifestyle, budget, and needs. We accept most insurance plans.

Next, read about skin conditions.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells and other diseased tissue through freezing. As a surgical type of cryotherapy, it is an effective, minimally invasive way to treat dermatological lesions or tumors, such as actinic keratosis, seborrheic keratosis, warts, and superficial basal or squamous cell carcinoma. Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen at temperatures between –346° F and –320° F to instantly freeze and eventually kill cancerous cells. For unhealthy tissue outside the body, such as a skin lesion, the liquid nitrogen is sprayed on or applied with a cotton swab. Once these cells are destroyed, your immune system begins absorbing and eliminating the remaining microscopic particles of dead tissue.

Curettage and Electrodessication

This surgical procedure was once the treatment of choice for both basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) years before technological and medical advances gave us the advanced techniques for treating skin cancer employed today. For many patients, this traditional type of surgery is still the most effective choice for treating skin cancer. The two steps of the procedure involve the removal of cancerous skin tissue through scraping followed by the closing of the resulting wound through cauterization. Before the session begins, a local anesthetic injection is administered. Then the curettage procedure begins, during which the curette is used to scrape out the infected tissue. The superheating properties of electrodesiccation are then used by running an electrical current through a needle-like instrument to control bleeding, close the wound, and destroy any leftover cancer cells. Learn more about curettage & electrodessication.

Excisional Surgery

Excisional surgery can remove moles, warts, benign tumors, cysts, and other skin lesions. A physician may perform this as a diagnostic skin biopsy on a suspected malignant tumor or unidentified lesion. If it has already been found that your skin lesion is basal or squamous cell carcinoma or the more dangerous melanoma, then a surgical excision can remove cancer from your body and perhaps save your life. A local anesthetic is given before your practitioner removes the targeted growth with a surgical scalpel or razor. A smaller piece of normal skin surrounding the growth is also lifted out to ensure that the entire growth has been removed. The resulting wound will be closed with sutures. The removed specimen is analyzed to find out whether or not it is malignant and if has been completely removed.

MOHS Surgery: Expert Skin Cancer Treatment

MOHS surgery is the most common and most effective treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell skin carcinoma. West Dermatology specializes in MOHS, with several experienced, board-certified doctors available to perform this treatment. MOHS surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, with a local anesthetic. Tissue is removed from the affected area one layer at a time, and immediately examined to determine if more tissue needs to be removed. This process allows our surgeons to remove all of the cancerous tissue in one visit, with minimal damage to healthy tissue. Repair or reconstruction of the affected area will depend on the size of the sample removed. Your surgeon will discuss options with you once the cancer has been removed.

PDT

Photodynamic therapy uses a photosensitizing agent that attacks cancer cells after it has been activated by a photosensitizer—a type of light with a very specific wavelength. This is applied topically at the site and absorbed by the cancer cells. This step can take anywhere from a couple of hours to couple of days, depending on the type of drugs being used. The photosensitizer light is then applied, which triggers the drug to produce an active form of oxygen that kills nearby cancer cells. PDT often costs less than surgery or radiation therapy, and studies find that it is just as effective in treating certain types of pre-cancers. PDT is also less invasive, can be performed on an outpatient basis, and produces little to no scarring when the site heals.

Superficial Radiation Therapy

Radiation is an essential part of fighting cancer because it alters the DNA of a cancerous cell, thus restricting the ability to reproduce and spread, which eventually results in the death of the cancerous tissue. Superficial Radiation Therapy (SRT) uses a low-energy radiation that penetrates to only a very shallow depth. The radiation in SRT is not as powerful as the version utilized in treating other types of cancer, so it is a safer, appealing alternative to more invasive treatments. SRT is FDA-approved for treating any area of your body where non-melanoma skin cancer has developed, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. SRT is particularly suited for treating lesions that develop in areas where aesthetics matter and cosmetic complications are to be avoided at all costs.

Topical Medications

Topical skin cancer treatments are applied directly to your skin in the form of a cream, ointment, or gel; they are also often prescribed in conjunction with other types of skin cancer treatment, such as surgery to remove a tumor. For certain non-melanoma cancers on the surface of your skin, topical chemotherapy creams are very effective, especially for squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and actinic keratoses. Common skin cancer topical medications include the fluorouracil cream 5-FU and Imiquimod (IMQ). 5-FU is a popular basal cell carcinoma treatment because it prevents cancerous cells from rapidly dividing and spreading to other parts of your body. IMQ is part of a new class of topical skin cancer treatment that stimulates your immune system into destroying cancer cells by producing a chemical called interferon, which attacks your skin cancer.