Treatment of Skin Cancer Recommended
If your doctor suspects that a spot or
patch could be skin cancer, you may be tempted to wait and see if
the lesion grows. Such a decision may seem practical, but
dermatologists caution that it can be risky. Here’s why
dermatologists recommend early detection and treatment.
Early Treatment Often Cures
With early detection and proper treatment, skin cancer has a
high cure rate. Even melanoma, the most serious form of skin
cancer, can be cured with early detection and treatment. The
5-year survival rate when melanoma is detected and treated
before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%. The prognosis is
not as favorable once melanoma spreads.
Early Treatment Easier to
Treatment for an early skin cancer generally can be performed in
a dermatologist’s office, with a local (affects only the area to
be treated) anesthesia. Additional treatment may not be
Waiting until the growth becomes bothersome typically requires
more extensive treatment. Even when the skin cancer grows slowly
as basal cell carcinoma does, treatment can require removing a
significant amount of skin and tissue as the following
For 7 years, this woman ignored a growth on her nose. To treat
this basal cell carcinoma, the surgeon had to remove skin and a
good amount of underlying tissue.
For many years, this woman covered
a growing lesion with her hair. This turned out to be basal cell
carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer.
(Photos used with permission of the American
Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching
In advanced cases, surgery may not
be a treatment option. If basal cell carcinoma is considered
inoperable, radiation therapy may be recommended. This treatment
may relieve symptoms such as pain, but generally does not cure
Early Treatment Offers Best
Caught early, treatment generally involves removing the entire
growth and a margin normal-looking skin. Taking a margin of
normal-looking skin helps to ensure that cancerous cells are
removed. The treated skin tends to heal, usually resulting in a
nearly imperceptible scar.
Allowed to progress, treatment often becomes more difficult — as
does a good cosmetic result. The two most common forms of skin
cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, can
invade and destroy nearby tissue. If this happens, treatment can
be difficult, especially on the head and neck. Before treating
skin cancer in these areas, the doctor must consider the
potential for a cure; possible effects on an eye, ear, or nose;
and the patient’s physical appearance after treatment.
If your doctor suspects that a mole or
other lesion could be skin cancer, it is essential not to delay
diagnosis and treatment. Skin cancer is very treatable and beatable
with early detection and proper treatment.
American Academy of Dermatology. “Melanoma Fact Sheet” Available at
accessed June 30, 2009.
American Academy of Dermatology.
“Skin Cancer Fact Sheet” Available at
Last accessed June 30, 2009.
Fincher EF, Gladstone HB. “Dual transposition flaps for the
reconstruction of large scalp defects.” Journal of the American
Academy of Dermatology, June 2009; 60: 985-9.
Kleydman Y, Manolidis S, Ratner D. “Basal cell carcinoma with
intracranial invasion.” Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology, June 2009; 60: 1045-9.
content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Early detection and proper
treatment of skin cancer offer the best prognosis.