A service of Group Health and Good Samaritan Hospital, the Good Samaritan Skin Cancer Program provides an innovative service to diagnose and treat skin cancer.
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Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancers. Such drugs are called cytotoxic and destroy cancer cells wherever the drug is present. If such chemotherapy is recommended by your physician it may be used in either a topical cream or lotion placed directly on the cancerous tumor or given orally or intravenously. Oral or intravenous treatment tends to kill cancer cells in any organ of the body rather than one isolated area. Chemotherapy for skin cancer is complicated and often part of a larger therapy known as immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a complex treatment of skin cancer and particularly melanoma.
Liquid nitrogen can be applied directly to the surface tumor with a cotton swab or a more sophisticated spraying mechanism. Following the use of cryosurgery, the frozen, dead tissue is either absorbed by the body in internal applications or forms a scab and gradually is cleansed from the skin. Recovery times are usually shorter than some surgeries and often unwanted destruction of nearby healthy tissue is avoided. Cryosurgery offers the elderly or other high-risk patients options that may be within the bounds of lowered risk.
It is called such because a small spoon shaped instrument with very sharp edges, a curette, is used to slice away the lesion. Local anesthetic is often used and there is very little pain and pressure felt during the procedure. The offending lesion is then sent for a biopsy and the wound cauterized. This procedure also offers shorter recovery time and provides lower risk than other surgical procedures.
Mohs micrographic surgery is performed on larger reoccurring skin cancers such as basal and squamous cell carcinomas. The physician excises the tumor and it is mapped with a unique color code allowing the physician to clearly know the shape and size of the offending tumor. The excised specimen of tissue that surrounds the tumor is thoroughly examined through a microscope with microscopic accuracy while the patient waits in the physician office. If you have widespread cancer or if it is close to vital structures (eyes, ears, nose , lips), Mohs surgery is a good solution because this procedure removes the greatest amount of the cancer regardless of its shape or growth rate, while preserving the greatest amount of tissue. Further surgical repair of the skin defect from the Mohs procedure and post procedure follow up is usually required. This procedure should be performed by physicians specialized in Mohs procedure.
The Mohs Surgical Unit with Facial Plastics and Cosmetic Surgery at Group Health Clifton offers comprehensive and, in many cases, one-stop care for the removal and reconstruction of small and large, complex skin cancers. A multidisciplinary team of experts (including oncologic surgeons specializing in the treatment of melanomas, as well as facial plastic surgeons who assist in reconstructions) will manage each skin cancer case. Learn more >>
Plastic surgery uses various techniques such as skin grafts or skin flaps to repair the defects caused by the removal of large or reoccurring skin cancers. During skin graft procedures, skin is removed from one area and transplanted to the defect area of the removed skin cancer. A skin flap procedure is when a piece of skin is rotated from an area close to the defect. Both of these procedures should be performed by a physician specialized in plastic reconstruction.
Radiation therapies may be also used to kill skin cancers. Radiation therapy is a pain-free treatment which is used to cure or control the spread of skin cancer. Treatment with radiation therapy for skin cancer is usually suggested only for those patients who cannot be offered other treatments such as excision.
In some cases of skin cancer, it may be appropriate for your physician to surgically excise the skin cancer lesion. This would involve your physician cutting around the skin cancer lesion and some of the tissue surrounding the lesion. The physician will send the removed lesion for a biopsy. There may be instances where healthy skin around the skin cancer lesion is recommended to be removed. Surgical excisions will require some form of anesthesia. Post-procedure follow-up is usually required. To decrease the occurrences of scarring, especially on the head and neck area, it may be necessary to consult a physician specialized in skin reconstruction.