Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin Cancer Overview

Skin cancer is one of the more common types of cancer, but luckily it is also one of the most treatable. Most of the time, skin cancers are slow-growing, low-grade tumors. If caught before the cancer moves into other organs, it is typically possible to leave a patient cancer-free after a surgical intervention.

If you are dealing with a recent diagnosis, prompt treatment is essential, and that’s why Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center has put together a skin cancer team. Skin cancer treatment in Eagle River, AK is built around an understanding of the unique qualities of skin cancer, and it is customized to the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with.

Cancer Types

The majority of all skin cancers do not typically move out into other tissue, but melanomas are known to metastasize readily in their later stages. Other types of skin cancer that might behave atypically make up less than one percent of all diagnoses.


In the early stages, it may be possible to fully remove the cancer with a surgical procedure. If the tumor is large or it has shown signs of spreading, radiation or chemotherapy may also be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or to ensure it is fully gone after.

Skin Cancer Risks

The following factors increase one’s risk of skin cancer.

  • Exposure to UV radiation through direct sun exposure or sources like tanning beds
  • Light-colored hair, blue eyes, or fair skin
  • Chronically suppressed immune system due to other illness
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation or certain carcinogenic compounds
  • Viral wart infections

Unlike many forms of cancer, skin cancer’s causes are well-understood, and reducing the risk factors in your life is one way of effectively managing the chances of developing tumors. Since some factors are environmental, it’s not totally possible to eliminate risks, and that is why you need your local Anchorage oncologists.

Skin Cancer Types & Stages

skin cancer treatmentThere are many types of skin cancers, but only a few are relatively common, and of those, only one is likely to invade nearby tissue. This makes most skin cancer relatively slow to develop, but other risk factors still make it a priority to treat. Read on to learn more about the types of skin cancer.

Basal & Squamous Cell Cancers

These two types of skin cancer rarely invade nearby tissue, and they account for the overwhelming majority of all skin cancer diagnoses. They tend to grow slowly, and they can be recognized by their reddish, scar-like or sore-like condition. They can put pressure on organs or displace nearby tissue, though, so they should still be caught and treated early.


Melanomas make up a minority of all skin cancer diagnoses, but they are still fairly common compared to other, more irregular types of cancer. Melanomas appear brownish, like irregular moles, and they tend to grow more quickly than basal & squamous cell tumors. They are known to metastasize to other tissue as well, so it is vital that melanomas be treated early.

Other Types of Skin Cancer

Apart from the three types discussed above, the remaining types of skin cancer altogether only make up one percent of all diagnoses.

  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Cutaneous lymphoma
  • Skin adnexal tumors
  • Various other types of sarcomas

Skin Cancer Screening, Detection & Treatment

Anyone can get skin cancer, but it’s also easy for anyone to do a self-examination. While the self-examination can’t tell you for sure if a spot you find is a tumor, it can tell you when you need to go in and talk to a radiation oncologist about what you found. Follow these steps to perform your self-checkup.

  • Examine your entire body front and back in a mirror
  • Look at your left and right sides with your arms lifted
  • Next, check your arms. Check both the tops and bottoms
  • Do the same with your legs, all the way around
  • Look at the soles of your feet, between your toes, and at your hands

Skin Cancer Treatment Options

Squamous cell carcinomas almost always cause disfiguring damage if they are allowed to develop long enough to penetrate deeply into the tissue. If they are caught early, though, surgical removal is generally simple and leaves no sign of cancer afterward. While rare, these cancers can occasionally metastasize, so they should be seen to immediately whenever they are found.

Melanomas are often removed through a similar surgical procedure, but it is more common for them to be supported by chemotherapy and radiation afterward due to their increased chance of metastasizing.

Depending on the size of the tumor and the level of involvement with other tissues, there are a few ways to remove tumors:

  • Mohs surgery, which uses local anesthesia and removes the cancerous tissue with a small layer of other tissue around it
  • The physician may also destroy tumors with auto-cauterization or through freezing it with liquid nitrogen
  • X-rays are also used to destroy the tumor through the use of carefully applied radiation, and this treatment can be used without the need for cutting or anesthesia

Need information or treatment for another form of cancer? Our cancer specialists are experienced in the following services:

Skin Cancer: FAQs

The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma (both are often grouped in non­melanoma skin cancers) and melanoma.

  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is usually found on the sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, scalp, ears, arms and torso. It rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but can be locally destructive. BCCs are the most common form of skin cancer, with more than a million new cases diagnosed in this country each year.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) begins in the uppermost layers of the skin and is most commonly a result of lifelong sun exposure. A small percentage of SCCs have the potential to spread to other areas of the body. SCCs are the second most common skin cancer, with hundreds of thousands of new cases diagnosed in this country each year.
  • Melanoma develops in the cells that make pigment in the skin. It is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can spread quickly through lymph nodes and to the internal organs but when diagnosed and treated early has a high cure rate. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for adults between 25­29 years old. More than 100,000 new melanoma cases and close to 9,000 related deaths ­­ were reported in the US in 2011.

Because skin cancers are caused by the uncontrolled growth of skin cells, the first presentation is usually a visible change in a person’s skin. Consult a trained physician immediately if you observe any of these warning signs associated with common skin cancers:

  • Basal cell carcinoma­ shiny nodule or pimple, a sore that won’t heal, a scar-like area or rough red patches.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma­ crusted red nodules (typically on sun-exposed skin but can also occur inside the mouth or the genitalia).
  • Melanoma­ a growing mole that changes shape, color or size; a mole that bleeds or is painful; a new “mole” that grows rapidly; a dark streak or black discoloration of the fingernail.

Non­melanoma skin cancers are some of the most treatable cancers. When melanoma is caught and treated early (before it spreads to the lymph nodes), it is also highly curable. The goal of treatment for skin cancer is to remove, or excise, all of the cancer. Typically, the first line therapies are surgical. Non­surgical treatments may be an option in some cases.

The type of surgical treatment used depends on the type, size, depth and location of the tumor. In most cases, the procedure is done on an outpatient basis. The most common surgical procedures to remove cancerous areas of the skin are:

  • Mohs micrographic surgery­ – a “stepwise” excision performed by a dermatologist with special training in the procedure. Thin layers of skin are removed in stages and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells. The process is repeated until no cancer cells remain. Mohs is used for certain types of skin cancer on the head, neck, feet and genitalia. It offers the highest cure rates (up to 99 percent for certain skin cancers) and leads to the best possible cosmetic result.
  • Standard excision ­ the skin cancer is excised along with a standard amount of normal appearing skin. This may be used for melanoma and small non­melanoma skin cancers on the torso and extremities.
  • Curettage and electrodessication ­ involves the scraping the cancerous growth with a curette and cauterizing the area to destroy residual tumor and to control bleeding. This may be effective for a subtype of basal cell carcinoma and very early squamous cell carcinoma.

Radiation or chemotherapy may be necessary for advanced cases of skin cancer or when patients are unable to have surgery.

The incidence of skin cancer has been increasing quickly for the past few years. One in two men and one in three women will develop non­melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. Once a patient has a non­melanoma skin cancer, there is a much higher risk of developing more skin cancers.

The risks factors for developing non­melanoma skin cancer include: fair skin, indoor tanning bed use, multiple blistering sunburns, heavy UV exposure, prior skin cancer diagnosis, northern European ancestry, history of radiation therapy, immunosuppression, exposure to arsenic, and some forms of the HPV virus. Individuals at higher risk of melanoma include those with: red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, many atypical moles, a first degree relative with a history of melanoma, a previous diagnosis of melanoma or non­melanoma skin cancer(s).

Sun exposure can damage your skin during any season, but summer rays are more harmful and can raise the risk of developing skin cancer. Smart sun care tips include:

  • Use sunscreen daily. Look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVB light and UVA rays.
  • Opt for water resistant products with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 on an average day, whether bright or cloudy. Choose a higher SPF for outdoor activities, especially swimming and exercise.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply at least every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear sunglasses, use SPF 15 to SPF 30 lip balm and reapply often.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing.
  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Seek shade.
  • Avoid tanning bed use.
  • See your dermatologist for a yearly skin exam.

Call Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center For More Information

Contact us at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center at 907-707-1333. We are here to explain the variety of treatment options available to you and make sure all of your questions are answered. For your convenience, we also have an online contact form that you may use to ask your questions or make your first appointment. Your first phone consultation is free, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today. You owe it to yourself to explore all treatment options available to you.

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