[3 min read] 5 common treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with around 800,000 confirmed cases each year. General practitioners alone have over one million skin cancer-related consultations annually, with lesion diagnosis being among patients’ most common skin concerns in primary care.

The two main types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: the most common type of skin cancer occurring in the basal layer (the lower part) of the epidermis; and
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: a common type of skin cancer which occurs in the squamous layer (the upper part) of the epidermis.

Non-melanoma skin cancer rarely metastasises beyond the skin (although this can occur), which makes it easier to treat than melanoma. The most common treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer include:

1. Excision: A very common skin cancer treatment is to excise the entire lesion with a standard margin of normal skin surrounding it. The wound is sutured, and the tissue is sent to a pathologist to examine the margins for any signs of cancer cells. If the margins do not return clear, further surgeries may be needed.

2. Mohs micrographic surgery: Another surgical option is to remove a thin layer of skin at a time and immediately evaluate it under a microscope. This is repeated until the tissue is clear of cancer cells, which helps reduce the amount of skin tissue removed.

3. Curettage and cautery: This is a procedure in which the skin’s surface is scraped off and then burned with an electric needle. This is only appropriate in early superficial skin cancers.

4. Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the surface of the skin, causing the cancer to “drop off”.

5. Topical therapies: Creams or gels are applied to attack the cancer cells.

These procedures can all be performed in a doctor’s office and require very little downtime; the patient can be treated in a short consultation and go home immediately afterwards.

More advanced skin cancers and some melanomas may require radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or major surgeries in the case of metastatic melanoma; these procedures are performed in the hospital setting.


Learn more about skin cancer medicine in primary care at the next Skin Cancer Certificate Courses.

Skin Cancer Certificate Courses in Australia

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *