How is skin cancer treated?

Treatment of skin cancer depends on the type and extent of the disease. Treatment is individualized and is determined by the type of skin cancer, its size and location, and the patient's preference.

Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas) include:

  • Mohs surgery (for high-risk non-melanoma skin cancers): Skin-sparing excision of cancer with complete peripheral and deep margin assessment.
  • Excision.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage: Scraping away the skin cancer cells followed by electrosurgery.
  • Cryosurgery.
  • Radiation treatment.
  • Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers to destroy cancer cells).

Standard treatments for melanoma include:

  • Wide surgical excision.
  • Sentinel lymph node mapping (for deeper lesions): to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes.
  • Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers).
  • Radiation therapy.
  • New methods in clinical trials are sometimes used to treat skin cancer.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/10/2019.

References

  • Tung R, Vidimos A. Melanoma. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:section 3.
  • Tung R, Vidimos A. Nonmelanoma skin cancer. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:section 3.
  • Environmental Protection Agency. The UV Index Scale. Accessed 12/4/2019.
  • Skin Cancer Foundation. Sun Protection. Accessed 12/4/2019.

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