What many people do not know is that skin cancer is not a single type of cancer, but rather a broad category that covers several different specific forms of cancer cells. Perhaps the most commonly diagnosed forms of skin cancer are basal and squamous cell skin cancers. If you find yourself diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, your first thought will likely be about what treatment options are available to you. So, get to know the standard treatment protocols for these common forms of skin cancer. This way, if and/or when you are diagnosed with basal or squamous cell skin cancer you will know what to do and what to expect.
The first step in the treatment of basal and squamous cell skin cancers is to surgically remove the known cancerous cells. If your skin cancer is in the early stages, this surgery is most often performed by a dermatologist. Generally speaking, the removal of a mole or other growth on your skin is considered a minor outpatient surgery that is quick and easy to recover from.
If your basal or squamous skin cancer cells are large in size, you may also require a skin graft and reconstructive surgery to cover and repair the area. Additionally, when there are multiple carcinomas on your skin or the cancer has advanced to later stages and has spread beyond the skin, a visit to the dermatologist for surgery will not suffice. In this case, you will likely need to visit a surgical oncologist to remove as many carcinomas as possible and plan additional treatments.
Instead of surgery, or sometimes in addition to surgery, your physician may also prescribe topical treatments to eradicate your skin cancer. Topical chemotherapy creams are quite commonly used for basal and squamous cell skin cancers.
Chemotherapy is a drug that kills tumor and cancer cells. A topical cream applied directly to the skin does not have the same side effects as injected chemotherapy, but can make the skin on or around your carcinomas red and irritated. These topical treatments are only effective is the cancer cells are at surface level or just below only. The chemotherapy in the topical creams does not penetrate deep enough to eradicate deeper cancer cells.
Radiation Therapy and Standard Chemotherapy
Basal and squamous cell skin cancer can also be treated by standard cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy that is injected directly into the vein. While basal and squamous cell skin cancers do not usually reach later stages, if they do, more generalized therapies are necessary to eradicate the cancerous cells.
Additionally, if you have a large tumor that would be very difficult or impossible to remove surgically, your doctor may instead opt to use targeted radiation therapy to kill the cancerous cells in the tumor. Radiation can also be used after tumors are surgically removed to kill of any potential remaining cancer cells.
If your cancer has spread beyond the superficial layers of the skin, on the other hand, what is known as systemic chemotherapy is your most likely course of treatment. In contrast to topical treatments, systemic chemotherapy travels through your bloodstream to fight cancer cells that have developed throughout your body.
As you can see, there are many treatment options available to you if you are diagnosed with basal or squamous cell skin cancer. So, be prepared and once you are diagnosed, do not delay treatments. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can find yourself cancer-free.