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Sophisticated Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is most common form of all cancers, affecting more than 2 million Americans annually. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more common and less serious forms of skin cancer, often the result of exposure to the sun or tanning lamps and beds.

Each year, a smaller number of people are diagnosed with melanoma, a more dangerous form of skin cancer that is more likely to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).

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Reducing Risk with Skin Evaluations

Most skin cancers can be successfully treated when detected early. That’s why our dermatologists encourage patients to have annual “skin checks,” perform regular self-examinations, and protect their skin with sunscreen and wear protective clothing.

While all people can get skin cancer, some people are at greater risk, and should be evaluated more regularly:

  • People with fair skin
  • People with a history of sunburns, or a personal or family history of skin cancer
  • People who have a large number of moles or precancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratosis
  • Organ transplant recipients

Diagnosis and Treatment

Our dermatologists will perform a skin biopsy of any suspicious actinic keratosis. Biopsies are performed in the physician’s office. A local injection is used to numb the area, and a small sample of skin is removed.

This sample is sent to the hospital’s dermatopathologist—a specialty trained dermatologist who analyzes tissue to determine if it is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Treatment depends on the type, size and location of the cancer. Individualized treatment plans are developed to meet each patient’s needs. 

Common treatments for early stage cancers are often performed under local anesthesia in our offices:

  • Electrodesiccation and curettage (scraping with a scalpel and burning with an electrosurgical device)
  • Excisional surgery, in which a scalpel is used to remove the affected area of skin
  • Mohs micrographic surgery, in which a specially trained Mohs dermatologist removes thin layers of skin to examine under a microscope; layers are removed and examined microscopically until no cancer cells can be seen.

Other treatment options may be used, including:

  • Immunotherapy, which uses the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
  • Cryosurgery, in which the skin cancer is frozen
  • Chemotherapy applied to the skin
  • Intravenous chemotherapy, which is used when cancer has spread beyond the skin
  • Photodynamic therapy, which combines using a chemical applied to the skin and UV light to destroy cancer, as well as actinic keratosis (precancerous small red bumps on sun damaged skin)
  • Radiation therapy