Treatment Options for Skin Cancer
Many productive measures are present for treating skin cancer, but the choice of treatment chiefly depends on the size and location of the tumor. Treatment options can be broadly divided into medications and procedures. Medication includes several topical therapies and drugs which are injected or taken orally. Procedures comprise surgeries, radiation therapy, and laser and light-based treatments.
Few gels and creams are now used in superficial basal cell carcinomas which include imiquimod that works by invigorating the immune system through the production of interferon which eventually attacks the cancerous cells. Drugs are also used in combination of topical solutions.
Targeted therapies are a kind of novel drug combination where drugs such as cobimetinib and vemurafenib are taken orally along with advanced immunotherapies. Such therapies are currently gaining much attention in the treatment of advanced melanoma.
- Chemical peel: Trichloroacetic acid is applied to repair superficial skin damage which peels the top skin layer. In general, normal skin regrows in a few weeks.
- Cryosurgery: Liquid nitrogen is topically applied to the tumor growth causing the lesions to freeze. Later the lesion falls off naturally causing a temporary swelling and redness.
- Curettage and Electrodesiccation: Curette, a small sharp ring-shaped instrument is used to scrape off the lesion and then cauterized using electrodesiccation. The applied heat destroys any residual lesion.
- Excisional surgery: In this surgery, the physician removes the entire tumor along with some surrounding healthy tissue. Only after the lab confirms whether the tumor is present or not in the tissue beyond the safety margin, the physician declares the patient fit.
- Laser surgery: Ablative lasers are used to remove the tissue without causing it to bleed. The laser gives the physician a better control in tissue removal.
- Mohs Micrographic surgery: This technique is chiefly employed when preservation of unaffected tissue is vital. It is also employed when the tumor is poorly defined or after a recurrence of previously treated lesions. The very first layer of the tumor is removed and immediately assessed. The region demonstrating any residual microscopic tumor is then re-excised and re-evaluated. This procedure is further repeated till no tumor is seen.
- Photodynamic therapy: A light-sensitizing agent is applied to the tumor and allowed to get absorbed in the skin. Then the physician uses a strong red or blue laser which selectively destroys the lesions by activating the medicated region.
- Radiation therapy: Tumors are directly subjected to X-ray beams to treat cancerous lesions. It is employed when the tumors are hard to be removed or with immunosuppressed patients.
Life after Skin Cancer Treatment
After a successful skin cancer treatment, a patient is full of hope and happiness. But all are never the same. Few patients are concerned with cancer recurrence. This brings worries and fear which at times may be quite intense for some survivors. Each patient tries to manage these emotions. Some proportion of depression or worry is quite normal among patients and hence it is essential for patients to receive emotional support. It could be a professional counselor, support groups, religious groups and friends or family.
Follow Up Care After Skin Cancer Treatment
Close follow-up is vital for skin cancer survivor patients. As recurrence of skin cancer in a different location is possible, physicians keep a close watch on patients. Patients should self-evaluate their skin periodically and look out for any changes at the site of cancer lesions as well as for any new growth at any other site. It is also important for patients to protect themselves from exposure to UV rays whether it is from the sun or tanning beds, as it increases the risk for new skin cancer occurrence.