Treatment for AK's and skin cancer depends on the size of the growth, the type of skin cancer, the cancer's location and its depth. Treatment for skin cancer usually involves some type of surgery or removal with topical medications, according to NCI. Sometimes a combination of methods is used. Options include:
* Surgery - NCI says many skin cancers can be cut from the skin. In fact, the cancer is sometimes completely removed at the time of the biopsy, and no further treatment is needed.
* Curettage and Electrodesiccation - In this procedure, the cancer is scooped out with a curette, an instrument with a sharp, spoon-shaped end. The area is also treated with an electric current from a special machine is used to control bleeding and kill any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the wound.
* Mohs' Surgery - The purpose of this technique is to remove all of the cancerous tissue and as little of the healthy tissue as possible. In addition, this method is used to remove large tumors, those in hard-to-treat places, and cancers that have recurred. The cancer is shaved off one thin layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope until the entire tumor is removed. NCI says this method should be used only by doctors who are specially trained in this type of surgery.
* Cryosurgery - Extreme cold may be used to treat precancerous skin conditions, such as actinic keratosis, as well as certain small skin cancers. In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is applied to the growth to freeze and kill the abnormal cells.
* Laser Therapy - Laser therapy uses a narrow beam of light to remove or destroy cancer cells.
* Radiation - NCI says skin cancer responds well to radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy), which uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. Doctors often use this treatment for cancers that occur in areas that are hard to treat with surgery.
* Topical therapy - Anticancer drugs in a cream or lotion can also be applied to the skin.
Reconstructive surgery may also be part of treatment for skin cancer. In addition, melanomas or other cancers that have spread beyond the skin may require radiation therapy, immunotherapy and/or chemotherapy.