Article published on 27th June 2008
Skin cancer is a clearly visible malignant growth on the skin, generally on the outer-most layer, the epidermis.
There are many reasons why a person might develop skin cancer, ranging from genetic predispositions (if you have very pale skin and are prone to freckles and sunburn) to UV (ultra violet light) damage from the sun, usually if you find yourself out in the bright sun very regularly without proper protection for your skin.
Forms of treatment for skin cancers include:
- Creams. Usually Imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). These are applied directly to the skin but are only useful against some cancers.
- Surgery. The vast majority of skin cancers can be cut away after a local anaesthetic has been administered to the patient. In some cases a skin draft might be needed for the wound, but this is not always the case, especially if the cancer was caught early and/or was reasonably small.
- Cryotherapy. Some skin cancers can be literally frozen off using tiny amounts of liquid nitrogen.
- Curettage & Cautery. This is another form of surgery where the cancer is scraped away, after which the skin is medically sealed. Again, this process is usually done under local anaesthetic.
- Photodynamic Therapy. This therapy involves the shining of a special sort of light at the skin cancer, after it had been dressed and covered with a cream for several hours.
In the next article we will look at the treatments for more serious skin cancers.
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