Friday, 9 December 2016

Diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer (2)

Diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer (2)



Radiotherapy can be used to treat basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers. The patient is most likely to have this if the cancer covers a wide area or is in an area that is difficult to operate on, or if surgery is not suitable for the patient. In some situations radiotherapy may be used as well as surgery. If there is a risk that cancer cells may have been left behind, radiotherapy may be used after surgery. This is called adjuvant treatment.


Chemotherapy tablets or injections are only used in certain circumstances for skin cancer. More often, chemotherapy creams are used to treat actinic keratosis or for skin cancers that are only on the top layer of the skin. Chemotherapy tablets or injections are only used for skin cancers that have spread. This treatment is mostly used to relieve symptoms in cancers that cannot be cured. This is still experimental treatment and the patient may be asked to take part in a clinical trial


Imiquimod cream (Aldara) is a new type of immunotherapy treatment. It is used for actinic keratoses or for the basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in the top layer of skin. Imiquimod cream uses the immune system to attack cancers. This means it uses the body’s natural defences to kill the cancer cells in the skin. Imiquimod makes cells produce more chemicals such as interferon and these destroy the skin cancer cells.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

This is a relatively new type of treatment. It is another alternative to surgery. PDT uses a drug that makes skin cells sensitive to light. The area of skin that needs treating is exposed to a special type of light, and the cancer cells are destroyed. PDT is used to treat basal cell skin cancers, Bowen's disease and actinic keratosis (also called solar keratosis).
PDT is best used in cases where the patient would need a lot of surgery. So he generally has this treatment for large basal cell skin cancers that are not too deep, or where there are several cancers in an area. PDT is not suitable for deeper basal cell cancers or squamous cell skin cancers because the light cannot penetrate far enough into the skin. The appearance of the treated area (the cosmetic outcome) after PDT is generally better than after surgery. There is more information about PDT in this section.

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