Actinic Keratoses (AK’s) are precancerous skin lesions, and with over 50 million Americans diagnosed with them so far, they are definitely the most common. The more time a person spends in the sun, the more likely they are to develop AK’s. AK’s themselves are not cancerous, but are a marker of risk, and if left untreated they can turn into Squamous Cell Carcinoma. AK’s usually develop on the face, lips, ears, scalp, neck, hands, forearms, and back. AK’s usually appear as crusty or scaly growths. They can be red, pink, brown, tan, or your natural skin color. They are usually dry and rough to the touch. Sometimes AK’s can be sensitive to touch, itchy, painful, inflamed, or even bleed.
Treatment Options for Actinic Keratoses:
Cryosurgery – also knows and “Freezing” uses Liquid nitrogen to treat individual AK’s
Topical Medications – useful when there are numerous AK’s, as they can treat visible and non-visible lesions at the same time, and can treat a large surface area
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – especially useful for lesions on the face or scalp, performed only in a doctor’s office, uses a topical medication in conjunction with light treatment to treat visible and non-visible lesions, can treat large surface areas with one treatment
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. Almost all basal cell carcinomas occur on parts of the body exposed to the sun- especially the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back. On rare occasions, however, tumors develop on unexposed areas. Basal cell carcinomas are easily treated in their early stages. The larger the tumor has grown, however, the more extensive the treatment needed. Although this skin cancer seldom spreads, or metastasizes, to vital organs, it can damage surrounding tissue, sometimes causing considerable destruction and disfigurement. People who have had one basal cell carcinoma are at risk for developing others over the years. Therefore, regular visits to a dermatologist should be routine so that the entire skin surface can be examined.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinomas may occur on all areas of the body including the mucous membranes and genitals. Chronic exposure to sunlight causes most cases of squamous cell carcinoma and is most commonly found on the face, ears, lips, scalp, neck, hands, and arms. Squamous cell carcinomas detected at an early stage and removed promptly are almost always curable and cause minimal damage. However if left untreated they can eventually penetrate the underlying tissues and become disfiguring. A small percentage can even metastasize to distant tissues and organs and can become fatal.
Treatment Options for Skin Cancer:
- Cryosurgery– also known as “freezing”, uses liquid nitrogen to destroy the growth. This technique is normally used on superficial cancers, or for patients who cannot tolerate other methods of treatment. Cure rate is between 85 and 90%.
- Curettage & Electrodessication (ED&C) – the growth is scraped off using a curette and the tumor site is desiccated (destroyed) with an electrocautery needle. This technique is not as useful with aggressive forms of skin cancers or those in high risk locations. Cure rate is around 90%.
- Excision – the entire growth, as well as some surrounding healthy tissue, is cut out of the skin and the surgical site is closed with stitches. The growth is sent to the lab to be sure that all cancerous cells have been removed. Cure rate is above 90%.
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery – the entire growth along with a thin layer of tissue around it are removed. The layer is checked under a microscope, and if not clear another thin layer of tissue is removed. This process is repeated until the last layer is cancer free. This technique is often used for recurrent cancers, or those in critical areas such as the eyes, nose, or face. This technique can save the greatest amount of healthy tissue and has the highest cure rate of 98% or higher.
- Topical Chemotherapy – these topical drugs are applied to the affected areas for 2-6 weeks, and are FDA approved to treat superficial Basal Cell Carcinomas. Cure rate is between 85 and 90%.
- Radiation – x-ray beams are aimed at the tumor. Treatment usually requires several treatments a week for 2-4 weeks. Cure rate is around 90%. If this treatment option is deemed best for you, we will refer to you a radiation oncology center.
To learn more about the benefits of our Skin Cancer Treatments, please call our office today to schedule a consultation.
* Photos and Content are all courtesy of ‘The Skin Cancer Foundation’ and are used with their permission
To learn more about the benefits of Skin Cancer Treatments, please call our office today to schedule a consultation and find out if this procedure is right for you.