Skin cancer treatment

What is skin cancer?

The main cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to UV rays from the sun, which can be extremely dangerous. The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal and squamous cell types of skin cancer are more common than melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma starts in the basal cells in the top layer of the skin. It is usually found on the head, chest or back. It will usually appear as a painless small pink or skin coloured lump with a smooth, shiny surface; you may also be able to see blood vessels on its surface. As it grows, the middle of the lump may start to scab or bleed. It grows very slowly over months or years.

Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells also in the top layer of the skin, and is most commonly found on the face, arms and hands. It appears as a rapidly growing lump which may be painful.
Melanoma starts in cells called melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin and give our skin colour when we have been in the sun. These cells also produce pigment for moles. Melanin, the colour pigment found in our bodies, protects the skin from the sun. Melanoma can change the appearance of moles, and they may start to itch, bleed, or become sore; they can also change shape and become darker.

What does treatment involve?

Treatments offered for skin cancer include:

  • Skin lesion excision
  • Skin biopsy
  • Topical chemotherapy
  • Curettage and cautery
  • Cryotherapy
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Moh’s surgery