Skin Cancer Treatments & Removal Procedures
Find a Skin Cancer Specialist
At Houston Methodist Cancer Center, our highly skilled medical, radiation and surgical oncologists offer the most cutting-edge skin cancer treatments available. We provide advanced skin cancer care at seven locations across the Greater Houston area, allowing you or your loved one to receive treatment close to home or work.
In addition to treatment options that are already standard of care, we provide access to clinical trials that offer potentially promising skin cancer treatments not available to the general public. Our goal is to provide an effective treatment plan that also preserves healthy tissue and cells.
Depending on the type of skin cancer and any specific features of your particular cancer, your care team may use one or more of the following skin cancer treatment options:
Surgery for Skin Cancer
Surgical removal is the most common treatment for the majority of skin cancers and melanomas, and this approach usually cures early-stage disease. The surgical options include:
- Wide excision – a fairly minor surgery that involves cutting out the cancer, as well as a small amount of non-cancerous skin at the edges
- Lymph node dissection – removes the nearby lymph nodes if the cancer has spread
- Surgery for metastatic melanoma – used for melanomas that have spread from the skin to distant organs, such as the lungs or brain
For most thin basal cell and squamous cell and early-stage melanomas, surgical removal via wide excision is performed with curative intent.
Reconstructive Surgery for Skin Cancer
In some cases, reconstructive surgery may be needed to restore the form and function of areas affected by skin cancer or certain skin cancer treatments. When possible, our expert reconstructive surgeons use minimally invasive surgical techniques, resulting in fewer complications and faster recovery.
Immunotherapy for Skin Cancer
Immunotherapy uses medications to stimulate a person's immune system to more effectively recognize and destroy skin cancer cells. Numerous types of immunotherapy can be used to treat skin cancer, either alone or in combination with other treatments.
Some immunotherapy treatments are given as intravenous infusions, whereas others are injected directly into the tumor or applied as a cream. With all immunotherapy treatments, your care team will discuss the rationale for this approach and its potential side effects and their prevention and management.
Chemotherapy uses drugs that stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It can be used to treat advanced melanoma, but immunotherapy and targeted therapy are generally preferred methods. Chemotherapy is usually not as effective in treating melanoma as it is in treating other types of cancer, but it may relieve symptoms or extend survival for some patients.
If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, your care team will discuss the medications, any side effects and the ways in which you and your family will be supported during your treatment.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Many different types of radiation can be employed to treat skin cancer, depending on its size and location.
The timing of radiation can vary, too, including:
- After surgery to reduce the chance that the cancer will recur
- In the event of recurrence, either in the skin or lymph nodes
- To relieve symptoms for a melanoma that has spread, especially to the brain or bones
Targeted therapy is a newer type of treatment for skin cancer that uses drugs or other substances to specifically recognize and attack cancer cells without harming normal cells. One common advantage of targeted therapy over chemotherapy is that the targeted drugs are associated with less severe side effects and can be taken orally.
Targeted therapies used to treat skin cancer include several medications that target two genes:
- BRAF gene – about half of all melanomas contain a mutation in the BRAF gene
- C-KIT gene – a small percentage of melanoma tumors have mutations in the C-KIT gene