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Treatment options

Types of Treatment


For all types of skin cancer, the primary treatment option is surgery. Surgery also allows for microscopic examination that helps make a definitive diagnosis and may achieve the complete removal of the lesion. In surgery, doctors will attempt to physically remove skin tissue that has transformed into cancer. If all the cancer is removed, and hasn’t spread to other parts of the body, this approach will cure the cancer. When treating melanoma, surgeons will afterwards remove tissue surrounding the primary lesion in order to reduce the risk of relapse.

Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, or Immunotherapy

In some cases, it isn’t possible to treat skin cancer by surgical removal. For instance, if cancer has already moved to other parts of the body when it has been detected and diagnosed, surgery may no longer be an option. In these cases chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy may be used. These treatments are toxic to cancer cells and may cause skin cancer to disappear or delay it from returning for many years. These treatments may have side effects that make them unpleasant to take and are therefore typically reserved for more serious cases of skin cancer.

Immunotherapy and targeted therapy

The last years have been marked by real improvements in the treatment of melanoma and NMSC, especially with immunotherapy and targeted therapies.
In melanoma two treatments (immunotherapy and targeted therapy) have shown a benefit in overall survival in comparison to conventional chemotherapy in patients with metastatic melanoma. In basal cell carcinoma, a novel pathway has been discovered (sonic hedgehog pathway) leading to promising therapies for the future

Topical Treatments

In cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer in which surgery is not considered appropriate, topical treatments imiquimod cream or photodynamic therapy (PDT) may be used.
PDT involves applying a special light-reactive cream to precancerous skin lesions in the treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Afterwards, the area is exposed to a particular type of light for a short amount of time. This activates the topical treatment which damages cancerous cells. Afterwards the area heals over, and may resume a normal appearance. One important benefit of topical therapy is that, unlike surgery, there is no scarring.


Cryotherapy is the primary treatment for precancerous skin lesions. It involves the use of extreme cold to destroy skin abnormalities and is most often used to remove moles and warts in addition to precancerous lesions. This approach is generally effective and has few side effects.

The Right Treatment for You

Your doctor will help you to decide which treatment is best for you. In addition, you may want to consider the following factors when selecting a skin cancer treatment that is right for you:

  • Consider your lifestyle, available time and cost to help you decide among the options.
  • The treatment may need to be used for prolonged periods of time or continuously in order to keep your skin cancer under control and stop it from progressing into something more serious.
  • Keep in mind: treatment adherence strongly influences treatment effectiveness (If you don’t use it, it won’t work!)

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