Learning you have skin cancer can be overwhelming and distressing. As you come to terms with your diagnosis, it’s important to know that you have many options for treatment.
At Associated Skin Care Specialists, our board-certified dermatologists diagnose and treat all types of skin cancer. Our team includes board-certified Mohs surgeons who perform Mohs micrographic surgery, a procedure with the highest cure rate for the most common types of skin cancer.
Here, we talk about skin cancer — the most common form of cancer in the US — and what happens after your diagnosis.
About skin cancer
Skin cancer develops when too many abnormal skin cells are formed. The skin cells affected determine the type of skin cancer you have.
Some of the more common types of skin cancer include:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma involves the cells located at the base of the epidermis — the outer layer of skin. Basal cells make new skin cells. Basal cell growths usually appear on areas of the body that get the most sun, like the face, neck, and arms.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
The second most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell cancer. Squamous cells make up the surface of your epidermis. These cancerous lesions most often appear on the face, neck, back, arms, chest, or rim of the ear.
Melanoma is less common than BCC and SCC, but it is the deadliest type of skin cancer because it grows and spreads quickly. This type of cancer forms from an overgrowth of melanocytes — pigment-producing cells — and may grow anywhere on the body.
The type of skin cancer you have determines your treatment options.
Skin cancer staging
After diagnosing your skin cancer, we need to know if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. We do this to determine the stage of your cancer.
Skin cancer staging includes:
- Stage 0: The cancer only affects the outer layer of skin.
- Stage 1: The cancer has grown into the dermis.
- Stage 2: A deep cancer tumor that affects the epidermis and dermis.
- Stage 3: The cancer has spread beyond the skin to the first lymph node.
- Stage 4: The cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
After removing your cancerous lesion, our dermatopathologists examine the tissue under a microscope to try to determine the cancer stage. If we’re not certain of the staging, we order other tests such as imaging scans or a biopsy of the lymph nodes.
Treatment options for skin cancer
In addition to type and stage, treatment for skin cancer also depends on the location and size of the cancerous lesion. Treatment options for skin cancer include:
Surgery is the primary treatment for most types of skin cancer. When found during the early stages (stage 0, stage 1, or stage 2), surgery may be the only treatment you need.
For patients with large lesions, recurring skin cancer, or cancer that affects highly visible areas, we perform Mohs micrographic surgery.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. You may need radiation therapy if your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy for skin cancer is usually topical. Like radiation therapy, chemotherapy kills cancer cells or stops the cells from growing.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
PDT combines a topical photosensitizing medication with light therapy to kill cancer cells. We perform PDT for precancerous lesions (actinic keratosis) and stage 0 skin cancer.
Your prognosis for a skin cancer diagnosis is good, especially when found during the early stages. There’s never a wrong time to schedule a skin exam for a skin cancer screening. If you have concerns, our team can provide all the services you need.
We provide dermatology care at our offices in Blaine, Maple Grove, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, New Brighton, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Call the office most convenient to you to schedule a consultation.
We also have an office in Fridley, Minnesota, where we do dermatology research and lab work.