Skin Cancer

Treatment options for the most common form of cancer.

Doctor discusses skin cancer treatment with patient

Getting started

Your treatment begins with your Legacy Cancer Institute doctor recommending a plan based on expert guidelines, called protocols. Your treatment is determined by:

  • The type of tumor
  • The location of the tumor
  • The extent of the disease, called the stage
  • Any tests you have had during diagnosis
  • A discussion about what is right for you

Your treatment for skin cancer depends on which type of skin cancer you have:

  • Nonmelanoma are the more common skin cancers that rarely spread to other parts of the body. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are nonmelanoma cancers, sometimes called BCC and SCC.
  • Melanoma is the skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. Learn more about melanoma.

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Treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer

Treatment for  the major types of nonmelanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) may include the following:

  • Surgery removes the tumor. Among the options:
    • Simple excision is done when the doctor can easily cut out the skin cancer.
    • Mohs micrographic surgery involves the doctor removing layers of tissue until all of the cancer has been removed.
    • Electrodesiccation and curettage is drying the tissue with an electric current and then removing the tissue with a special instrument.  
    • Cryosurgery is using cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells. Also called cryoablation and cryotherapy.
    • Laser surgery is the use of powerful laser beams to destroy tumors.
    • Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
    • Topical chemotherapy is the use of  anticancer drugs in a lotion or cream applied to the skin.

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating nonmelanoma skin cancer. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care. 

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these symptoms in the best ways possible. Comfort care can treat symptoms to help improve your quality of life; this is also called palliative care.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. These tests can also determine if cancer has returned. Whenever possible, we work to stop the growth of cancer and reduce the chance of cancer coming back.  

Nonmelanoma cancers are likely to come back or form other tumors within five years. Talk to your doctor about a recommended schedule for follow-up skin cancer screening.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs. 

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