Precancerous or cancerous skin conditions will require treatment. Once a biopsy has confirmed the type of cancer, appropriate therapy can be planned. Precancerous or early lesions may be more surface oriented and can have treatment options including electrofulguration (burning), cryosurgery (freezing), or chemical skin peeling with topical medication type creams and ointments. This approach is more of a destructive method, which cleans up the abnormal surface changes making way for healing with more normal skin cells. This will hopefully prevent the abnormal skin cells from progressing to skin cancer.
Alternatively, biopsy confirmed skin cancers will usually involve surgical excision to cut out the cancer and provide the most comprehensive removal. Surgical procedures can usually be done as an outpatient, under local anesthesia to numb the skin, with the occasional addition of "twilight sleep" sedation for more difficult or larger cancers. When excised, the cancer is sent for pathology biopsy to confirm microscopically that the entire cancer has been removed. Mohs excision is a particular method of removal performed by trained dermatologists that allows removal and immediate microscopic evaluation to confirm eradication of the cancer.
Once the cancer has been completely cut out, the skin will usually require stitches to close the open wound. Smaller wounds can be directly stitched closed in a straight line, while a more complicated cancer removal may require plastic surgery to reconstruct the area of the body involved. Once surgical treatment is complete, the most common types of skin cancer will not require additional radiation or chemotherapy. These additional treatments are only required for more advanced skin cancer (like some advanced melanomas), which are fortunately, less common. Occasionally , radiation therapy alone, as a primary treatment, may be an option for select skin cancer patients.
The healing process is usually one week to remove stitches during which time return to work is usually possible. More rigorous physical activity for full aerobic exercise can usually be resumed by two weeks or sometimes three weeks at the latest. Recurrence rates of cancer are dependent upon the severity and particular type of cancer, but fortunately for the most common types, recurrence is not frequent. Melanoma is an exception and it can display a more aggressive course, but if caught early can still do well.
Prevention, regular skin evaluations by your doctor, early detection, and thorough removal treatment remain the cornerstone principles of skin cancer care.