When cancerous growths cannot be detected by the naked eye, another means of detection is necessary. After a physician or dermatologist has identified a suspect growth on the skin, they will usually perform a biopsy. The straight definition of a biopsy is a removal and microscopic examination of a suspect tissue or body fluid. In the case of skin cancer, the doctor will excise a very small portion of the suspicious area and test it to look for cancerous cells.
Many kinds of biopsies exist for skin cancers and include: shave biopsy (thin slice with scalpel), Curette biopsy (superficially scraped off), and scissors biopsy (protruding section of growth cut off). At least 10% of all persons with newly diagnosed skin cancer have multiple growths and if the doctor finds one cancerous growth, they will check the other moles on that person as well.
Many times a simple surgery is all that is needed to remove a cancer. Most of the time cancers that are removed by surgery are not very serious or have been identified very early. Surgery comes in many forms, but all involve a knife and your skin
One method of surgical removal is LASER surgery. The word "laser" is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers are super-intense, highly concentrated light beams that are very precise and clean. This method is very advantageous because it sterilizes as it removes and coagulates the blood, controlling the bleeding.
Excision or curettage surgery are used for precancerous growths or small cancerous growths. This method is also used for cosmetic purposes on moles or other unwanted marks on the skin. These two procedures can be done in a doctor's office and usually only requires local anesthesia.
The last type of surgery involve burning the cancerous cells away. Electrosurgery uses an instrument that carries an electrical current and fries the growth. This is a painful method and local anesthesia is always used. Electrosurgery leaves a scar that eventually will go away and is useful for superficial growths.
Defined as treatment by using drugs, chemotherapy is a popular method for treating all cancers. For skin cancer, topical chemotherapy works the best. A lotion or cream is applied to the surface of the skin at regular intervals and after some time, the cancer cells die away. Chemotherapy is often used after one of the surgical methods have been used as a precaution against reoccurrence.
Some examples of chemotherapy drugs:
Using solid carbon dioxide or liquid nitrogen, cancerous growths can be frozen to death. The substance is applied directly to the growth by spraying, swabbing, or using a metal probe. The growth will blister and die as the cell membranes of the cancerous cells burst. This process is also used after excision of a tumor to make sure nothing is left. There is no pain during the procedure, but discomfort follows later on.
Several methods are in the experimental stages and may be the treatment in the future. Taking chemotherapy by a pill is being tested as a means for treating skin cancer. This is not a new idea for other cancers, but for treating skin cancer it is. Reaching the outer layer of skin through the bloodstream is a challenge that has to be met before skin cancer can be treated with a pill.
Biological therapy is another method that is used currently. This method tries to get your own body to fight the cancer. It uses materials made by your body or ones made in a lab to boost the immune system to a level where it can defend itself against the tumor.
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