For many types of skin cancer, our dermatologists can provide all the care you need. But for other types, you will require care from a multidisciplinary team of specialists. This team could include doctors from surgery, plastic surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) and radiology (imaging).
Complex or challenging cases may be discussed in a multidisciplinary tumor board — a conference that is attended by doctors from all the different specialties that may be required for your care. These doctors collaborate in developing the optimum plan for you.
Options for the treatment of skin cancers can include combinations of:
There are different techniques available to remove skin cancers, depending on their size, stage and location:
- Excision is the surgical removal of the cancer and stitching the edges of the skin together.
- For recurrent or more aggressive skin cancers, Mohs micrographic surgery is used to remove the tumor layer by layer, helping to minimize damage to healthy skin. As each layer of skin is removed, it is examined until no more cancer cells are found.
For melanoma, excisional surgery — physically removing the tumor — is the primary treatment, and if the cancer is localized, it may be the only treatment required.
Curretage and electrodessication
“Curretage” means the use of a small, sharp instrument to scrape away cancer cells. “Electodessication” involves the use of a needle that delivers a small electric current, destroying any remaining cancer cells. This technique is excellent for very superficial cancers.
In this procedure, an extremely cold liquid or probe is used to freeze and destroy the abnormal cells. This technique is most often used for early stage skin cancer.
These are medicated creams that are applied to the skin.
When surgery is not an option, radiation therapy may be used to treat skin cancer.
Targeted therapies are drugs that are designed to address specific gene changes in the cancer cells. Targeted drugs such as vismodegib (Erivedge) or sonidegib (Odomzo) can be used to shrink or slow the growth of advanced cases of basal cell carcinoma.
With advanced melanoma, samples of the cells from your biopsy may be tested for these gene changes to determine whether you are a candidate for targeted therapies.
Rather than attack cancer cells directly, immunotherapy stimulates the body’s immune system to attack those cells.
When skin cancer has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be used to treat the cancer systemically.
Treatment for any kind of skin cancer can often affect a person’s appearance. Wilmot Cancer Institute works closely with the top plastic and facial plastic surgeons at the University of Rochester Medical Center for reconstruction after skin cancer surgery.