Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Screening and Diagnosis: Get Checked
In addition to the examinations you give yourself at home, your doctor can check your skin from head to toe. No matter how thorough you are, a physician may have a better eye for something that looks abnormal.
If your doctor finds something that looks suspicious, he may decide to do a biopsy on the area in question. This will determine if the spot is benign (not serious) or malignant (cancerous). Depending on your situation, all or part of the mole will be removed for testing. During this process, you will be referred to a medical oncologist.
In the event that you have a malignancy, your doctor will then determine how thick the cancer is and how far it has spread.
Treatment: Get Better
Most skin cancers are very treatable, especially when they are caught early.
For many carcinomas and early-stage melanomas, the biopsy may be the only treatment necessary. If the entire mole is removed, and it has not spread, nothing else will need to be done. If a melanoma has spread, however, further treatment will be necessary. Treatment may take the form of:
- Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove lymph nodes to see if your cancer has spread.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment may be used in conjunction with surgery. It delivers cancer-killing drugs either in pill form or by IV. Usually, chemotherapy is administered in cycles, so your body has time to recover in between treatments. Most patients experience fatigue and nausea after chemotherapy. Some people also lose their hair, but as the treatments end, the symptoms dissipate and hair grows back.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to pinpoint your cancer cells and destroy them. Sometimes it is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and surgery. After radiation, you may feel tired or nauseated, but these symptoms improve once the treatment is over.
- Immunotherapy: Another treatment for skin cancer is biological drugs. These medications are derived from the human body and help boost your immune system. Some patients experience flu-like symptoms after this treatment.
Follow-up: Keep Watch
After you have been treated for skin cancer, it's important that you don't let your guard down. Remember to use sunscreen year-round and limit your exposure to UV rays. Be sure to check your skin on a regular basis and talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.
For more information on skin cancer care and screenings at The Cancer Center at St. Anthony’s Hospital, please call (727) 825-1253.
St. Anthony's Cancer Center
1201 5th Ave. N., Suite 130
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Phone: (727) 825-1253
Fax: (727) 825-1332