10 Terms You May Hear When Getting Treatment for Skin Cancer
Jacqueline Ho | Oct 2nd 2013
A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for the skin, nails, hair and mucous membranes. Besides their medical training, dermatologists receive special training in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, recognition and management of skin diseases and disorders and surgical procedures used in dermatology.
An oncologist is a medical doctor specializing in treating people with cancer. The three main types of oncologists are medical, surgical and radiation. While each specializes in a different aspect of treatment, they often work together to create the most beneficial treatment plan for the patient.
Cryosurgery is used to treat some types of skin cancer and precancerous . This kills the cancer cells through freezing. Liquid nitrogen is applied directly to the cancer cells on the skin. When the frozen skin tissue thaws, it dissolves and forms a scab. Cryosurgery is also on internal tumors. The long-term effectiveness is still being studied.
Electrodesiccation is used to remove different types of skin lesions, such as squamous cell carcinoma. An electric current is used to kill cancer cells. As it heals, the cancer cells shrivel up and fall off. This type of treatment leaves a smaller scar than other types, such as excision.
Moh’s surgery is an effective treatment for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Doctors remove one layer of tissue at a time and then use a microscope to check for remaining cancer cells. Doctors continue to remove tissue until no further cancer is detected. This type of surgery has the benefit of leaving more healthy tissue than other types of surgery. Research on this type of treatment is ongoing.
Doctors will remove a portion of a skin lesion (or other bodily tissue) so that it can be examined by a pathologist under a microscope. If you have a skin lesion, your doctor may request a biopsy to determine if there are cancer cells present.
When cancer is treated with medications (chemicals) it is called chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be given orally (at home) or intravenously in the hospital. Careful monitoring through doctor’s visits and blood tests are needed during and after chemotherapy to make sure the patient remains healthy and to monitor the presence of cancer.
During clinical trials a new medication or medical device is tested on human patients in a highly structured format. The trials must abide by national and international regulations to make sure patients are safe. Clinical trials allow researchers to see how a treatment works and document the possible side effects of the treatment.
This is sometimes used with electrodiseccation. The cancer cells are scraped off and the remaining cells are burned off with electrodesiccation – this is called electrodesiccation and cutterage (ED & C).
Doctors sometimes perform excision of skin cancer, cutting out the tumor or lesion. Some of the surrounding tissue is also included to make sure all cancer is removed. For small lesions, excision is highly successful and the wound heals quickly, leaving only a small scar.