Research & Education
Our Roswell Park skin cancer team will assess and plan the best treatment strategy for your skin cancer. Your individualized plan may include one or more of the following therapies:
Removing the cancer surgically is almost always the primary treatment for skin cancer. If your cancer was removed entirely during your biopsy, further treatment may not be necessary. For cancers that have not spread beyond the epidermis, surgery alone may be curative. Surgical removal of skin cancer may involve:
Chemotherapy refers to therapy that uses medicine to treat the cancer and different drugs attack your cancer in various ways. Chemotherapy may be given before and/or after surgery.
Systemic chemotherapy: uses anticancer drugs that are taken orally, injected or given intravenously. The drugs enter the bloodstream and circulate the body, attacking cancer cells by preventing them from multiplying. Systemic chemotherapy may be recommended for Kaposi’s sarcoma and Merkel cell carcinoma.
For many basal and squamous cell cancers and for Bowen’s disease, the drugs may be applied directly to the skin or tumor in a cream or lotion form. These include:
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), a non-surgical treatment, was pioneered here at Roswell Park. It involves taking a photosensitizing drug (may be in a cream that’s applied to the skin or injected intravenously) and exposing the cancer cells to a special kind of light. The photosensitizing agent, called porfimer sodium, concentrates in the cancer cells and when exposed to a specific wavelength of light, the cancer cells absorb the light, and produce an active form of oxygen that kills the cancer cells. Side effects are usually not serious and may include burning or stinging pain. You will also have to avoid direct sunlight and bright lights for about 6 weeks. Learn more by reading the National Cancer Institute's Fact Sheet on Photodynamic Therapy for Cancer.
Roswell Park researchers are currently developing new photosensitizing agents that work better and have even fewer side effects than porfimer sodium.
Also called radiotherapy, this treatment directs high-energy radiation at the cancer cells to kill them or to keep them from growing.
Your treatment plan may include radiation therapy if your skin cancer: