Find out how your doctor decides which treatment you need and the types of treatment you might have.
Deciding which treatment you needA team of doctors and other professionals discuss the best treatment and care for you. They're called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). Your treatment depends on:
- the type of skin cancer
- how far it's grown or spread
- where the cancer is
- the stage of the cancer (if relevant)
Your doctor will discuss your treatment, its benefits and the possible side effects with you.
The main treatment for skin cancer is surgery. For most people, surgery removes the cancer and is the only treatment they need.
The surgery is usually minor. Your usually have an injection of local anaesthetic in the area and then the doctor removes the cancer and a small amount of the surrounding tissue. You might have a skin graft depending on where the cancer is in the body, or if it covers a larger area.
There are different types of surgery, what you need depends on where the cancer is and how big it is.
Radiotherapy is a treatment for BCC or SCC. You're most likely to have this if:
- the cancer covers a wide area
- it's in an area that's difficult to operate on
- surgery isn't suitable for you
- to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery
- the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
Imiquimod cream (Aldara) uses the immune system to attack cancers. Imiquimod makes cells produce more chemicals such as interferon and these destroy the skin cancer cells.
You might have it as a treatment if you have BCC in the top layer of skin or actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis can develop into a SCC over time.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a drug to make your skin sensitive to light. Once you have had the drug your doctor focuses a special type of light on the area where the cancer is. This destroys the cancer cells.
PDT is a treatment for BCC, Bowen's disease and actinic keratosis (solar keratosis).
Chemotherapy cream is a treatment for:
- actinic keratosis
- skin cancers that are only on the top layer of the skin
- Bowen's disease
You usually have a type of chemotherapy cream containing Fluorouracil (5FU). Actinic or solar or actinic keratosis might develop into squamous cell skin cancer over time. So you have treatment to try to prevent this from happening.
You might have chemotherapy tablets or injections if your cancer has spread. Having chemotherapy in this way can help to relieve symptoms in cancers that cannot be cured. This is still experimental treatment and your doctor may ask you to take part in a clinical trial looking at chemotherapy to treat skin cancers that have spread.
Clinical trials to improve treatment
Your doctor might ask if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial. Doctors and researchers do trials to improve treatment by:
- making existing treatments better
- developing new treatments