Skin Cancer Treatment Options (Nonmelanoma)

Treatment for Skin Cancer
(Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma)

Mohs Skin Cancer Surgery

Mohs surgery is one of the most highly successful techniques in treating skin cancer surgically. There are several key benefits to eligible skin cancer patients:

  • Highest cure rate of all skin cancer treatments--99% (even when other treatments have failed)
  • Most exact and precise method to remove a tumor
  • Reduced chance of recurrence (the skin cancer coming back)
  • Less chance of scarring

Mohs skin cancer surgery is most often used in treating basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Director, Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Dermatologic Surgery, Clifford Perlis, MD Mohs surgeon Clifford Perlis, MD, MBE, meets with a patient.

Fox Chase's specially-trained Mohs surgeon, Clifford Perlis, MD, is able to perform this state-of-the-art procedure by acting as surgeon, pathologist and reconstructive surgeon. With the assistance of a microscope, he is able to remove the tumor tissue layer by layer. Each layer is examined for tumor cells (signs of skin cancer) before proceeding to the next layer. This advanced technique ensures removal of the entire tumor with minimal scarring by preserving as much healthy tissue as possible.

Mohs skin cancer surgery is very effective for large tumors, tumors that have recurred after other treatments have been given and tumors in areas such as the face, which require preservation of normal, healthy skin. Reconstruction is also offered for patients with large areas of the skin affected by the tumor.

Standard Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for newly discovered nonmelanoma skin cancers. It allows the tumor to be removed and generally results in a cure (about 95% of all cases). Unlike other types of skin cancers, nonmelanoma rarely spreads to regional lymph nodes or other sites of the body. However, since patients with one skin cancer are more likely to develop new ones, regularly scheduled post-treatment follow-up with your skin cancer doctor is recommended. For patients who do not select surgery or who have medical conditions that prohibit surgery, radiation therapy may be given.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target skin cancers. It is useful for large tumors or those located in areas that cannot be removed surgically (such as the eyelid, tip of nose or ear). Radiation therapy can also be successful for patients (with other medical conditions) who are not candidates for surgery. In cases where there are residual (left-over) cancer cells after surgery and further surgery is not possible, radiation therapy can be added to reduce risk of recurrence (the cancer coming back).

Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery for skin cancer is used to rebuild areas which may have been damaged by the tumor and/or surgery to remove the tumor. When the skin cancer appears on the central face (nose, eyelids, lips) or ears, surgery to remove the tumor may be used as an alternative to radiation therapy. In this case, reconstructive surgery may be necessary. This also may apply to situations when the skin cancer tumor has been allowed to grow to a large size or has spread beyond the skin to adjacent facial structures. In these more advanced cases, patients may need other skin cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy — especially patients with lymph node involvement or those whose disease is not resectable. These more complex treatment plans are formed with the cooperation of other specialist members of the skin cancer treatment team.

Lymphoma Treatment

A few rare nonmelanoma skin cancers require special expertise. These include some forms of lymphoma, called primary cutaneous lymphomas, that begin mostly or entirely in the skin.

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