For some types of early skin cancer your dermatologist may recommend non-surgical treatment. The main advantage of non-surgical treatments is they often offer a better cosmetic outcome and avoid the pain and discomfort of surgery.
There are a number of different non-surgical treatments for skin cancer and sun damage, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Your Dermatologist will discuss these options in more detail at the time of your consultation.
Some skin cancers, such as melanomas and thicker SCC's can not be treated non-surgically. It is very important that your doctor has experience in using these non-surgical treatments as inappropriate use can result in adverse outcomes.
Cryotherapy involves freezing the skin using a cold substance such as liquid nitrogen. This treatment is generally reserved for non-cancerous lesions such as solar keratosis and warts.
In some situations very early skin cancers may be treated with cryotherapy however this treatment should only be performed by experienced practitioners.
Imiquimod is a cream that is designed to stimulate the body's own immune system in the skin to destroy cancer cells. It is usually applied for a 6 week period and induces a brisk inflammatory reaction.
Imiquimod may be used for superficial BCC's, precancerous lesions and sun spots. It has a high rate of cure and excellent cosmetic results.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
Photodymamic therapy involves applying a special cream to the tumour and then exposing it to a bright light to create a photochemical reaction that selectively destroys cancer cells.
For skin cancer, PDT is usually performed on two occasions separated by one to two weeks. Like Imiquimod, PDT may be used for superficial BCC's, precancerous lesions and sun spots. It also has a high rate of cure and excellent cosmetic results.
Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used instead of surgery for skin cancer in places that are hard to treat or for patients who are too frail for surgery.
Radiotherapy may be used for BCC's and some SCC's. Sometimes radiation therapy may be recommended after surgery to help prevent the skin cancer from coming back.
In carefully selected patients, radiotherapy can be an excellent non-surgical treatment option.