Beyond Chemo: How Is Skin Cancer Treated?

When you think of cancer treatments, chemotherapy is often the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, there is a good chance you won't actually need chemo. When skin cancer is caught early, it is often treatable simply by removing the cancerous lesion and then sometimes administering radiation treatment to the surrounding skin. That being said, cancer treatments vary widely based on the location of the cancer, the cells affected, and the cancer's severity. Here are several skin cancer treatments that your doctor might recommend.


Cryosurgery is a fancy term for freezing. If your cancer is in the very early stages and is very localized, your doctor may simply freeze the lesions off using liquid nitrogen. This will feel cold, but it should not be overly painful. The cold will kill the tissue, and the tumor will fall off in the coming days, which might cause some itching and stinging, but nothing more.

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy occurs in two steps. First, your doctor will have you take a medication that makes your cancer cells very susceptible to light. Then, they will shine a special kind of laser on your skin cancer lesions. Your normal, healthy cells should survive the light exposure, but thanks to the action of the medication, the cancer cells will be strongly affected and will die. 


This is one of the oldest, most tried-and-true methods for treating larger skin cancer lesions. The surgeon will basically remove the growth using a scalpel and normal surgical tools. Then, they will use a curettage tool to basically burn the edges of the wound left behind. Burning the edges in this manner helps ensure that any lingering cancer cells are destroyed. In recent years, the curettage is often performed with a laser, which allows for more precise application and less damaged skin.

Mohs Surgery

Another option for larger and more advanced skin cancer treatments, Mohs surgery is a robotic procedure. The robot will slowly remove the affected skin, one layer at a time. As it operates, it analyzes the cells in the skin it removes. It will keep removing layers until the skin cancer has been fully removed. An advantage of this method is that no more skin than is necessary is removed.

These skin cancer treatment options have all worked well for many patients, but you should talk to your doctor to see which is best suited to your needs.