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Skin Cancer Treatment – Surgical and Nonsurgical

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer affecting people across the globe. Cancer, also called malignant neoplasm, occurs when cells in the body divide uncontrollably. Cancer cells develop when the genetic material in the body cells is damaged and the body is unable to repair this damage. These damaged cells divide and multiply uncontrollably forming a tumor mass. Uncontrolled division of skin cells is called skin cancer.

Various treatment approaches are available for treating skin cancers and the selection of treatment modality depends on various factors such as the type, location, severity or of the cancer, patients’ age & health status and other conditions. The treatment modalities include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgical therapy or combined approach. Surgical approach is considered based on the location, type and size of cancer as well as in cases when other modalities cannot remove the tumors.

Surgical Treatment

The surgical methods to remove tumor mass include:

  • Curettage and desiccation – Curettage involves scooping out the cancer mass with the help of a spoon–like instrument called a curette. Cautery is used by applying an electric current to control bleeding and kill the remaining cancer cells.
  • Surgical excision – Surgical excision involves removal of the entire skin cancer. This is sent for testing and the area is usually sutured (stitched).
  • Cryosurgery: In this technique, liquid nitrogen is applied to freeze and kill the abnormal cancer cells.
  • Mohs micrographic surgery: Also known as “microscopically controlled excision”, in this method the surgeon removes a small piece of the skin cancer and examines it under the microscope during surgery. The procedure of removing and examining continues until the cancerous growth is removed and the skin sample is free of cancer cells. It is preferred for large tumors that have recurred after previous treatment.

Nonsurgical Treatment

The nonsurgical methods of treatment include:

  • Immunotherapy: Also known as biological therapy, immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer or reduce side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Creams can be prescribed for suitable early skin cancers.
  • Chemotherapy: This is the use of drugs to kill the cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Treatment method where high- energy rays are used to kill cancer cells. Multiple treatments are required.

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