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Skin Cancer Treatment

Our Treatment Approach

Your care for skin cancer at MD Anderson includes a treatment plan customized to your specific type of cancer. Surgery is the most common therapy for skin cancer. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers usually are removed by one of the surgeries listed below.

Mohs Surgery

Very thin layers of tissue are removed and looked at immediately under a microscope. If skin cancer cells can be seen in the layer, the dermatologic surgeon continues shaving off layers one at a time until all cancerous tissue is removed. Mohs surgery causes less scarring and has a shorter healing period than removing the entire area at once.

Mohs surgery is done at a doctor’s office as an outpatient in a hospital. The skin is numbed. Occasionally a mild sedative may be given. MD Anderson has a Mohs and Dermasurgery Center dedicated to this skin cancer treatment.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery is less invasive than conventional surgery. The doctor applies liquid nitrogen or argon gas to the cancer tissue to freeze and destroy it. The tissue is then allowed to thaw. This process may be repeated.

Because the doctor can focus cryosurgical treatment on a limited area, destruction of nearby healthy tissue may be avoided. The treatment may be used with other therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation. Sometimes cryosurgery is an option when surgery is not possible.

Laser Surgery

Lasers use an intense, focused beam of light to destroy skin cancer tissue. The laser destruction, plus the body's immune response to the injury, results in a blistered wound that takes several weeks to heal.

The laser can be set to remove the skin in controlled layers, depending on the depth of the cancer. The surgeon may remove the top layer only or the top layer plus the next deeper layer and so on.

Lasers may be used to treat:

  • Skin cancer in hard-to-reach places such as between the toes
  • Superficial skin cancers
  • Precancers
  • Scars after skin cancer surgery
  • Noncancerous skin growths

Electrodessication

A scraping instrument (curette) and electrical currents are used to destroy and burn small and superficial skin cancer. This also is called "scraping and burning.” The abnormal area is treated, along with a rim of surrounding skin called a safety margin.

Our Skin Cancer Clinical Trials

Because of its status as one of the world’s premier cancer centers, MD Anderson participates in many clinical trials (research studies) for skin cancer. Sometimes they are a patient’s best option for skin cancer treatment. Other times, they help researchers learn how to treat cancer and improve the future of skin cancer treatment.

Treatment at MD Anderson

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are treated in our Melanoma and Skin Center.

Clinical Trials

MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.

Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about skin cancer in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.

Counseling

MD Anderson has licensed social workers to help patients and their loved ones cope with cancer.

myCancerConnection

Talk to someone who shares your cancer diagnosis and be matched with a survivor.

Prevention and Screening

Many cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes and regular screening.