If you have had a mole or other suspicious spot biopsied to check for skin cancer, the wait for the laboratory results can be maddening. While most people get the good news they hoped for, some are not so lucky. Being diagnosed with skin cancer can be scary, but thankfully, the majority of the time skin cancers are caught before they have spread. Here is a look at what you can expect for treatment.
What Are The Options?
The treatment plan your doctor decides is best depends on the type of skin cancer as well as whether or not it has metastasized, meaning spread to another area of your body, such as your lymph nodes. Most non-melanomas are very slow growing and don't typically spread to other organs. Melanomas, however, frequently do.
Surgery is almost always a part of the treatment plan. The surgery may be nothing more than an outpatient procedure with a local anesthetic similar to the biopsy where the physician excises the growth as well as an area of healthy skin surrounding it to ensure the cancerous tissue is removed completely. A larger growth may require traditional surgery with a general anesthetic.
In some cases, especially if the cancer is in an area with very little skin tissue or where it would be noticeable such as on the face, another type of surgery known as Mohs surgery will be performed. This surgical procedure was created by a general surgeon named Frederic E. Mohs in the early Nineties.
With this procedure, the smallest amount is removed initially. The physician then pauses and examines the removed tissue under a microscope to see if there are still cancer cells remaining o9n the margins, or the edges. If there are, he will repeat the procedure, excising a little bit more and checking again. By doing it this way, he is able to remove the least amount of healthy tissue possible.
Cryosurgery is another option. This procedure is used for superficial cancers, such as squamous cell cancer. Liquid nitrogen is used, sometimes repeatedly, to freeze off the growth. Laser surgery is also becoming more common on some skin cancers.
Melanomas are more serious because of their tendency to metastasize. In fact, they can be deadly. In addition to surgery, radiation therapy is the usual course of action. If the cancer has spread, additional surgery and chemotherapy may be required as well.