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Can You Treat Skin Cancer

Laser Surgery Is Not Fda

Treating Skin Cancer

Laser surgery is not currently used as a standard treatment for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. It can, however, be an effective secondary treatment. Laser treatment is sometimes used after Mohs surgery to complete the removal of cancer cells. Lasers are effective at removing precancerous lesions, but have not been proven effective at treating cancer yet.

How Are Moles Evaluated

If you find a mole or spot that has any ABCDEs of melanoma or one thats tender, itching, oozing, scaly, doesnt heal or has redness or swelling beyond the mole see a doctor. Your doctor may want to remove a tissue sample from the mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it will be removed and the wound stitched closed. Additional treatment may be needed.

What Are Differences Between Melanoma And Other Skin Cancers

Melanoma, Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma each arise from different cell types in the top layer of the skin.

BCC and SCC are far more common and also far less dangerous than melanoma. Each year, over 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with BCC and SCC. When detected and treated early, nearly all BCCs and SCCs can be cured.

In comparison, approximately 139,000 people will be newly diagnosed this year with melanoma the most deadly form of skin cancer. Unfortunately, melanoma has a greater tendency to aggressively spread beyond the skin, to lymph nodes and internal organs. Thankfully, however, the vast majority of melanomas are caught early and cured.

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Melanomas That Could Be Mistaken For A Common Skin Problem

Melanoma that looks like a bruise

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, including the bottom of the foot, where it can look like a bruise as shown here.

Melanoma that looks like a cyst

This reddish nodule looks a lot like a cyst, but testing proved that it was a melanoma.

Dark spot

In people of African descent, melanoma tends to develop on the palm, bottom of the foot, or under or around a nail.

Did you spot the asymmetry, uneven border, varied color, and diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser?

Dark line beneath a nail

Melanoma can develop under a fingernail or toenail, looking like a brown line as shown here.

While this line is thin, some are much thicker. The lines can also be much darker.

Choosing To Stop Treatment Or Choosing No Treatment At All

There is Effective Ways to Treat Skin Cancer

For some people, when treatments have been tried and are no longer controlling the cancer, it could be time to weigh the benefits and risks of continuing to try new treatments. Whether or not you continue treatment, there are still things you can do to help maintain or improve your quality of life.

Some people, especially if the cancer is advanced, might not want to be treated at all. There are many reasons you might decide not to get cancer treatment, but its important to talk to your doctors and you make that decision. Remember that even if you choose not to treat the cancer, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms.

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How Can You Minimize Your Risk Of Skin Cancer

Dr. Leffell suggests the following:

  • Avoid sunburns.
  • Apply a high-SPF sunscreen .
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or more frequently when swimming or perspiring.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face.
  • Avoid time in the sun during peak hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Give yourself a skin exam every month to look for new growths. Anything new, that has changed in color or size, or thats asymmetrical, peeling, bleeding, or not healingshould be evaluated by a dermatologist.

How Does Frankincense Help Treat Skin Cancer

When it comes to skin cancer, frankincense is the number one essential oil that pops up. But whats so special about frankincense that gives it so much anti-cancer prowess, especially for skin cancer? Here are some of the properties in frankincense oil that make it so potent:

Anti-inflammatory: Frankincense oil is rich in special oil terpenes, which have potent anti-inflammatory qualities. Inflammation is a common characteristic in all cancers and the elimination of inflammation could mean the elimination of cancer.

Analgesic : The analgesic properties in frankincense oil help to alleviate pain faced by cancer patients, and those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.

Anti-oxidant: Anti-oxidants are very important compounds found in frankincense oil, which can help neutralize free radical damage, reduce oxidative stress and stimulate the growth of new healthy tissues.

Cicatrisant: Frankincense is a natural cicatrisant, which means it promotes the regeneration and renewal of new healthy cells and repairs damaged cells. It also helps prevent scarring.

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What Are The Treatment Options For Skin Cancer

Most skin cancers are detected and cured before they spread. Melanoma that has spread to other organs presents the greatest treatment challenge.

Standard treatments for localized basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are safe and effective. Small tumors can be surgically excised, removed with a scraping tool and then cauterized, frozen with liquid nitrogen, or killed with low-dose radiation. Applying an ointment containing a chemotherapeutic agent called 5-fluorouracil — or an immune response modifier called imiquimod — to a superficial tumor for several weeks may also work. Larger localized tumors are removed surgically.

In rare cases where basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma has begun to spread beyond the skin, tumors are removed surgically and patients are treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes disfiguring or metastatic basal cell skin cancers that are not able to be treated by surgery or radiation are treated orally with sonidegib or vismodegib .

There are also drugs that target specific gene changes within normal cells that cause them to become cancerous. Often called targeted therapy, these drugs include dabrafenib , trametinib , and vemurafenib .

People who have had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again. Anyone who has been treated for skin cancer of any kind should have a checkup at least once a year. About 20% of skin cancer patients experience recurrence, usually within the first two years after diagnosis.

What Are Symptoms & Signs Of Skin Cancer

How to Treat Skin Cancer on the Face | Skin Cancer

Symptoms of skin cancer include changes in skin lesions or moles, or the development of new moles that can be remembered by the ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry Irregularly shaped, each half looks different
  • Border Jagged, uneven, irregular edges
  • Color Mole is several different colors
  • Diameter Size greater than ¼ inch
  • Evolution Changes in size, shape, or color

Other symptoms of skin cancer include:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a depressed area in the center
  • A pearly white bump

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What Is Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a strong-smelling vinegar thats made from apples that have been crushed, distilled, and fermented. Most people describe the taste as sour.

The vinegar has high levels of acetic acid, which is thought to provide health benefits. It also contains polyphenols special antioxidants that are known to lessen the cell damage thats associated with diseases like cancer.

Some cooking recipes call for apple cider vinegar. Its also commonly used as a cleaning solution, skin toner, teeth whitener, or alternative health treatment.

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How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed

First, your dermatologist may ask you if you have noticed any changes in any existing moles, freckles or other skin spots or if youve noticed any new skin growths. Next, your dermatologist will examine all of your skin, including your scalp, ears, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, around your genitals and between your buttocks.

If a skin lesion is suspicious, a biopsy may be performed. In a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Your dermatologist will tell you if your skin lesion is skin cancer, what type you have and discuss treatment options.

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What Are The Signs Of Skin Cancer

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on your skin, typically a new growth, or a change in an existing growth or mole. The signs and symptoms of common and less common types of skin cancers are described below.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in the world. In most people, its slow growing, usually doesnt spread to other parts of the body and is not life-threatening.

Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • A small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, and neck.
  • A flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
  • Areas on the skin that look like scars.
  • Sores that look crusty, have a depression in the middle or bleed often.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. This skin cancer can also form in areas such as mucus membranes and genitals.

Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • A firm pink or red nodule.
  • A rough, scaly lesion that might itch, bleed and become crusty.


Signs and symptoms of melanoma include:

  • A brown-pigmented patch or bump.
  • A mole that changes in color, size or that bleeds.

Start Your Care With A Fellowship

Skin Disease Cancer Treatment / Skin Cancer &  Melanoma ...

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when it comes to skin cancer treatment, youre better off beginning your care with a board-certified dermatologist. Choosing a dermatologist with fellowship training in skin oncology and dermatologic surgery is also important.

Sometimes people go right to a plastic surgeon when they have something on their face, Dr. Lee explains. But skin cancer can grow wider than anticipated, making complete removal tricky.

One way to ensure that you get the best cosmetic outcome is to seek out a dermatologist with experience in treating facial skin cancer. Dermatologists who have completed a dermatologic surgery fellowship tend to have the most experience with facial cancers, Dr. Lee says. Ask your dermatologist for a referral to a dermatologic surgeon or seek treatment at a medical center with dermatologic surgeons on staff.

Fellowship-trained dermatologic surgeons are experts in delicate skin-sparing procedures that can better preserve your appearance while also making sure that all of the cancer is removed. They are also skilled in reading pathology, Dr. Lee points out, which gives them an excellent understanding of how cancer grows so they can ensure that they are removing all of it.

And if you do need a plastic surgeon, a dermatologic surgeon will be able to advise you.

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Treating Stage 4 Melanoma

If melanoma comes back or spreads to other organs it’s called stage 4 melanoma.

In the past, cure from stage 4 melanoma was very rare but new treatments, such as immunotherapy and targeted treatments, show encouraging results.

Treatment for stage 4 melanoma is given in the hope that it can slow the cancer’s growth, reduce symptoms, and extend life expectancy.

You may be offered surgery to remove other melanomas that have grown away from the original site. You may also be able to have other treatments to help with your symptoms, such as radiotherapy and medicine.

If you have advanced melanoma, you may decide not to have treatment if it’s unlikely to significantly extend your life expectancy, or if you do not have symptoms that cause pain or discomfort.

It’s entirely your decision and your treatment team will respect it. If you decide not to receive treatment, pain relief and nursing care will be made available when you need it. This is called palliative care.

When Should You Be Tested For Skin Cancer

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you get screened once a year by a dermatologist. If youre at higher risk for skin cancer, your dermatologist may suggest that you get screened more often.

During a screening, your dermatologist will do a full body scan and check for unusual spots or suspicious moles. If they see anything troubling, they may do a biopsy by removing the spot and sending it to a lab to test for cancer cells.

Many people of color think skin cancer only affects white or fair-skinned people. But people of color also get skin cancer. In people of color, however, its often diagnosed at a more advanced stage, making it more difficult to treat. Even if you have darker skin, its important to get checked regularly.

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How To Do A Skin Cancer Check

Checking your skin regularly will help you get to know how your skin normally looks so you can be aware of any changes. This is especially important as you get older, particularly if you are over the age of 50.

Make sure you check your entire body, as skin cancers can sometimes occur on parts of your body that are not exposed to the sun.

Take the following steps to check your skin:

  • Use a hand-held mirror or ask for help from someone else to check hard-to-see areas, such as your back and neck.
  • Check underneath your armpits, inner legs, ears, eyelids, hands and feet.
  • Use a comb to move sections of hair aside and check your scalp.
  • If you notice any skin changes, see your doctor.

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Treatments For Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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The following are treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on the . They will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

SCC is most often treated with local therapy. This means that only the cancer on the skin and the area around it are treated.

But if SCC has spread to other parts of the body, systemic therapy may be used. Systemic therapy travels through the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer cells all over the body.

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Questions For Your Skin Cancer Healthcare Team

Here are some questions you might want to ask your dermatologist or other health professionals you see:

  • What type of skin cancer do I have?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • How much experience do you have treating my type of skin cancer?
  • What do you suggest is the best treatment for me?
  • Are there other options? What are they?
  • How effective is the treatment for my skin cancer?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • How likely is it that my cancer will return after treatment?
  • Should I stay out of the sun or take special precautions when outdoors?
  • Do you accept my insurance plan?

Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

Squamous cell skin cancers can vary in how they look. They usually occur on areas of skin exposed to the sun like the scalp or ear.

Thanks to Dr Charlotte Proby for her permission and the photography.

You should see your doctor if you have:

  • a spot or sore that doesnt heal within 4 weeks
  • a spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks
  • areas where the skin has broken down and doesnt heal within 4 weeks, and you cant think of a reason for this change

Your doctor can decide whether you need any tests.

  • Cancer and its management J Tobias and D HochhauserBlackwell, 2015

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2018

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Prevention Is Better Than A Cure

Ultraviolet light exposure is the most important risk factor for skin cancer. There are many things that you can do for yourself and your family to reduce UV exposure, including:

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor 15 or higher.
  • Seek shade between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
  • Avoid indoor tanning beds.

Skin Cancer Diagnosis Always Requires A Skin Biopsy

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When you see a dermatologist because youve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.

If the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, your dermatologist will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.

Having a skin biopsy is essential. Its the only way to know whether you have skin cancer. Theres no other way to know for sure.

What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells arent found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.

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Topical Treatments For Skin Cancer

Some skin spots and superficial skin cancers can be treated with creams or gels that you apply to the skin. These are called topical treatments. They may contain immunotherapy or chemotherapy drugs, and are prescribed by a doctor.

Only use these treatments on the specific spots or areas that your doctor has asked you to treat. Dont use leftover cream on spots that have not been assessed by your doctor.

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