Treatment of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

Dr. Jan Peter Dank, MD, Dermatologist, discusses the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer.

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Dr. Jan Peter Dank, MD, Dermatologist, discusses the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Jan Peter Dank, MD, Dermatologist

Video Title: Treatment of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds  

Non-melanoma skin cancers – squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma – are the more common and least threatening of the types of skin cancer. 

Once the diagnosis is made, there’s usually going to be a surgery in most cases to treat it. The type of surgery that’s done is going to be based upon how serious that particular cancer is, where it is on your body, and how big it is. 

A skin cancer on the tip of your nose or your eyelid, for example, are going be more challenging to remove than one that’s on your back or your arm. For those delicate areas like eyelids, lips, nose, fingers, ears, genitals – those areas, when cancer is diagnosed, will usually be referred for Mohs micrographic surgery. That’s an advanced surgical technique that removes the skin cancer layer by layer.  

The majority of cancers that are in places like your back or chest or neck, those will often have a standard surgery where the skin cancer is cut out and repaired with stitches.

For some of the more superficial cancers and smaller cancers, dermatologists in particular like to do a technique called electrodessication and curettage, which is surgical, but the skin cancer is scraped away, and there’s no stitches – and the recovery is simpler with less risk. 

There are ways to approach non-melanoma skins cancers that are not surgical. For superficial ones and early ones, there are couple medications that can be used.  

One is called imiquimod; another is called 5-fluorouracil. These treatment methods usually have lower cure rates than do surgery, but there are circumstances in which somebody might prefer them. 

For example, if they’re an early cancer and it’s on their face and they’re concerned about the cosmetic appearance of the scar – they may gamble on a lower cure rate to avoid the surgical scar.

Or there may be somebody who has health problems or other issues that make surgery a greater risk for which another treatment may be recommended.  

Another way to treat non-melanoma skin cancer is radiation treatment. And again, that has advantages and disadvantages. If you have a brown or black spot on your skin that looks like a mole that’s changing its size, shape and color – please see your doctor as soon as possible.  

Presenter: Dr. Jan Peter Dank, Dermatologist, Bellingham, WA

Local Practitioners: Dermatologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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