Skin cancer is the most common – and treatable – form of cancer, especially when caught early. If you have been diagnosed with either nonmelanoma or melanoma cancer, you can trust us for education, early detection and screening, what to expect and next steps after a diagnosis.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, every day counts. We help you review and understand your options quickly. Our compassionate care team provides in-depth expertise, and your care team will be with you every step of the way so you can begin treatment within days after cancer is detected.
You play a vital role in early detection of skin cancer. Contact your doctor if you notice a change in your skin, like the appearance of a small, white or pink bump with a smooth surface, red spots that are dry, rough or scaly, or a sore that bleeds and does not heal after two to four weeks. Pay particular attention to a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole or an appearance of a new mole.
If your physician has a concern after your physical exam, you’ll likely be referred to our advanced imaging services and may need blood tests, dermatoscopy, a test where the skin is examined through a special magnified device, or a biopsy. A pathologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing disease, will look at your cell samples to identify the presence of cancer and determine its type and stage.
Innovative technologies offered at SCL Health
We target skin lesions and tumors with some of the most advanced treatments and technology available. One of our most innovative treatments is micrographic surgery, or Mohs. After numbing the area, your doctor will remove affected or abnormal tissue one layer at a time and look at it under a microscope. If abnormal cells are seen, the doctor continues removing tissue layer by layer. Advantages of Mohs surgery are less scarring and a shorter healing period. Plastic reconstruction is sometimes done at the same time.
Your case is unique, which means your treatment plan will be designed around you and your needs. Every week, a team of specialists meets to discuss current cancer cases and collaborate on the best treatment for each patient. You benefit from the combined expertise of specialists in radiology, surgery, pathology, pharmacology, oncology and therapists in fields like physical therapy and psychology.
Your recommended treatment will be based on best practices that have worked for other patients, specific aspects of your cancer/tumor, the results of all your tests, the stage of your cancer and your personal preferences.
Skin cancers are typically treated through a combination of procedures, such as surgery, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
- Cancer Surgery - Surgery is the most common way to treat skin cancer. Your doctor will decide on the best surgical treatment based on the type, stage, size and location of your cancer. You may also need surgery to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, which could require other types of treatment after surgery. Doctors who do surgery for skin cancer include dermatologists, general surgeons, plastic surgeons and cancer surgeons.
- Immunotherapy (biologic therapy) Immunotherapy is used to treat advanced melanoma or melanoma that is at high risk of coming back. This treatment uses specific medicines to help your own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. These medicines can be in the form of pills or injections or given through an IV.
- Targeted therapy - Targeted therapy drugs target the parts of cancer cells that make them unlike normal cells. Approximately half of all melanomas are due to abnormalities in the BRAF protein gene. In targeted therapy, specific medicines target the BRAF gene without affecting most normal, healthy cells.
Targeted therapy drugs are different from standard chemotherapy medicines and may work when chemotherapy medicines don’t, often with less severe side effects.
- Chemotherapy and infusion - Chemotherapy and infusion therapy use powerful medicines to kill cancer cells all through the body. Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat advanced melanoma or lessen symptoms. For nonmelanoma skin cancer, chemotherapy is applied as a cream or ointment or delivered through an IV. Chemotherapy may be combined with other immunotherapy drugs.
- Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. This treatment is used primarily for nonmelanoma skin cancers in the form of electron beam radiation that goes only skin-deep. Radiation is not commonly used to treat melanoma, but may be used to kill cancer cells that remain on the lymph nodes after surgery, treat recurring melanoma, treat tumors in other areas of the body and relieve symptoms.
- Ablation therapy - Tumor ablation treatment destroys a tumor without surgically removing it from the body. This is often the medical recommendation when you’re too sick to have surgery. Ablation techniques include heating the tumor with radio waves (known as RFA), freezing the tumor (known as cryoablation), or killing the tumor by blocking certain blood vessels and cutting off the blood supply that feeds the kidney.
You should always talk to your doctor about your specific treatment plan and what you can expect.
Your care team
Our cancer care teams know that great care is the result of seamless communication between you, your family and your existing healthcare providers. When you have this kind of collaboration, you can expect a more efficient, effective and tailored approach to meeting your individual needs.