Different options are available for non-melanoma treatments of skin cancer patients. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Four types of standard treatment are used:
SURGERYOne or more of the following surgical procedures may be used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer:
- Mohs micrographic surgery: The tumor is cut from the skin in thin layers. During surgery, the edges of the tumor and each layer of tumor removed are viewed through a microscope to check for cancer cells. Layers continue to be removed until no more cancer cells are seen. This type of surgery removes as little normal tissue as possible and is often used to remove skin cancer on the face.
- Simple excision: The tumor is cut from the skin along with some of the normal skin around it.
- Shave excision: The abnormal area is shaved off the surface of the skin with a small blade.
- Electrodessication and curettage: The tumor is cut from the skin with a curette (a sharp, spoon-shaped tool). A needle-shaped electrode is then used to treat the area with an electric current that stops the bleeding and destroys cancer cells that remain around the edge of the wound. The process may be repeated one to three times during the surgery to remove all of the cancer.
- Cryosurgery: A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy.
- Laser surgery: A surgical procedure that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor.
- Dermabrasion: Removal of the top layer of skin using a rotating wheel or small particles to rub away skin cells.
- Grafts: Grafts are sometimes needed to close an opening in the skin left by surgery. The surgeon first numbs and then removes a patch of healthy skin from another part of the body, such as the upper thigh. The patch is then used to cover the area where skin cancer was removed. If you have a skin graft, you may have to take special care of the area until it heals.