THE IMPORTANCE OF TREATING A SKIN CANCER
The true size and extent of skin cancers cannot be fully appreciated by simply looking at the surface of the skin.
It is important to recognize that a skin cancer that is visible to you may be just the “tip of the iceberg”. Some subtypes of skin cancers have potentially more extensive, infiltrating “roots” under the surface of the skin. In fact, the skin cancer has usually been growing for several months beneath the skin before it surfaces and can be seen by the naked eye. What you see on your skin may therefore be only a small portion of the whole tumor. Only under microscopic examination is it possible to determine the extent of the tumor.
Sometimes it appears that a skin cancer has been completely removed following a biopsy and the skin may appear very normal on the surface. Unfortunately, there are usually tumor cells beneath this normal appearing skin that are continuing to replicate and grow. If left untreated, these cells will continue to grow under the surface of the skin, without being apparent to anyone because of these deeper “roots.”
TYPES OF SKIN CANCER TREATMENTS
While Mohs surgery is often the treatment of choice for skin cancers on the face, there are many other appropriate treatment options for skin cancers on other parts of the body.
Dr. Mann strongly believes that every skin cancer should be evaluated based on its own circumstance and that the treatment plan be tailored to each patient. While some treatments may be appropriate for some patients, it may not be the right one for you. Fortunately, there are many different treatment modalities to choose from and Dr. Mann will recommend the one that is best for each particular circumstance, while providing a combination of high cure rates and good cosmetic results.
Possible treatment modalities include:
- Mohs Surgery
- Electrodessication and Curettage
- Topical immunotherapy – Aldara, 5-FU
- Injectable chemotherapy – Bleomycin, 5-FU
- Radiation Therapy
- Laser Therapy
Circumstances that effect the selection of the treatment type include:
- Location and size of the skin cancer
- Type of skin cancer
- The histologic growth pattern
- Health of the patient
- Age of patient
- Patient convenience
HOW SUCCESSFUL IS THE TREATMENT OF SKIN CANCER?
Of all forms of treatment for skin cancers, Mohs micrographic surgery has the highest cure rate.
The treatment of skin cancer has three goals:
- completely remove the cancer
- preserve normal skin and function
- provide an optimal cosmetic result
To be cured, skin cancers must be destroyed or removed. Initial (primary) treatment of most skin cancers has a success rate greater than 90%, with Mohs surgery approaching 99%. The success rate in treating a recurrent (previously treated) skin cancer by the above conventional methods is often as low as 50%. The success rate for Mohs surgery in treating recurrent lesions is about 95-98%.
Skin cancers may be effectively treated by several different methods. The most common ways include traditional excisional surgery, curettage and electrodesiccation (scraping and burning with an electric needle), cryosurgery (freezing with liquid nitrogen), radiation therapy (x-rays), and Mohs, or microscopically controlled surgery. The treatment of each skin cancer must be individualized, taking into account the type, size, and location of the cancer, the patient’s age, and whether or not the cancer has been treated before.