How is skin cancer treated?

Skin cancer is Australia's most common cancer, with over 1.1 million skin cancers treated nationally every year. In this short video, Dr Kerry Summerscales explores the various treatment options available for skin cancer.

How are skin cancer treatments chosen?

Treatment options for skin cancer depend on the specific type and stage of the cancer, as well as its location on the body. The most definitive approach is surgical excision (in which the cancerous tissue is removed), especially for advanced, large, or aggressive skin cancers like melanoma.

However, for early-stage skin cancers like actinic keratosis (sun-damaged scaly patches) or early squamous cell carcinomas, alternative treatments may be available. This includes topical creams, photodynamic light therapy, and non-surgical skin cancer therapies.

Field treatments for pre-cancerous lesions

Dr Summerscales says that field treatments may be recommended when dealing with actinic keratosis or suspected early squamous cell carcinomas. These treatments involve the use of topical creams which are applied directly to the affected area to eliminate pre-cancerous cells.

Surgical excision of skin cancers

In cases where the initial treatments do not achieve complete clearance or when dealing with suspected melanoma, surgical excision may be necessary. Your doctor will surgically remove the skin cancer along with a margin of healthy tissue to ensure full clearance.

This tissue is then sent to a lab where pathologists examine the sample under a microscope to confirm the lesion has been completely removed. 

Photodynamic light therapy

In addition to surgical excision and topical creams, other non-invasive treatment options like photodynamic therapy (PDT) are available. PDT can target and eliminate sun-damaged skin, providing cosmetic benefits and reducing the appearance of ageing.

Dr Summerscales says that one of the advantages of skin cancer is its visibility. Regular skin checks enable early detection of any suspicious changes in the skin, which leads to smaller scars and more effective treatment options. That's why it's important to promptly address any concerns and get a regular full skin check.

Watch the full video with Dr Kerry Summerscales:


Learn more about treatment options for skin cancer.