If you've recently been diagnosed with basal or squamous cell carcinoma, you may be terrified after having heard the words "skin cancer" leave your doctor's mouth. Fortunately, both these types of skin cancer have extremely high cure rates—only about 2,000 of the more than 2.2 million people diagnosed with one of these skin cancers each year will succumb to it, and many of these deaths are due to outside complicating factors (like old age or other illness). As a result, you have the relative luxury of deciding how you'd like to treat or manage your basal or squamous cell carcinoma. Read on to learn more about the best long-term cure options.

Do you have any options short of surgical removal of the cancerous area?

Because these cancers are especially slow growing, some physicians may recommend a "watchful waiting" approach, particularly if the cancer is in an area you're easily able to see on a regular basis (like your face, forearms, or the tops of your feet). You'll be able to seek further treatment if you notice any changes on or around the cancerous area, but are unlikely to suffer any complications in the meantime—and can avoid a potentially painful or expensive medical procedure.

Not everyone is comfortable with this approach, and others may be reluctant to leave a cancerous growth on their body for primarily cosmetic reasons. Once you've decided to end the watchful waiting phase and have your skin cancer removed, you have a few options. 

  • Medication

There are certain types of chemotherapy medications shown to be especially useful in combating surface skin cancers. These medications rarely have the same serious side effects as the stronger chemo medications used to treat more aggressive forms of cancer and can be just as effective.

  • Topical radiation

Another treatment option often utilized by those suffering from fast-spreading cancers is radiation. However, unlike the heavy-duty radiation that attacks cancer tumors within your body, the topical radiation often used by skin cancer sufferers targets only your skin. This allows you to avoid other potential downsides of radiation treatment (like the risk of damage to other organs) while maintaining a high cure rate. 

  • Cryosurgery

Depending upon the size and location of your cancerous lesion(s), having these lesions frozen away through cryosurgery may be a viable option. During this process, your physician will apply a small amount of liquid nitrogen (or "dry ice") to the lesion, freezing it off and removing it for good. While you may occasionally require a follow-up appointment to destroy any remaining cancerous tissue, cryosurgery boasts a very high rate of success.

When is surgical excision the best choice for your basal or squamous cell carcinoma?

In some cases, trying nonsurgical removal methods may produce only a temporary result as the cancerous lesion regrows—or even spreads. You may be concerned about the potentially disfiguring effects of an untreated or inadequately treated lesion. If you find yourself in this category, having your skin cancer surgically removed may be the best choice.

Even as recently as a few years ago, many doctors were reluctant to remove all but the most visible of potentially problematic lesions due to concerns about scarring. However, advances in microsurgery and other types of noninvasive surgical procedures have helped to significantly improve surgical outcomes while minimizing scarring. For example, the use of a scalpel or other cutting device combined with high heat can help cauterize any remaining blood vessels that could cause bruising or other complications. You may also be able to take advantage of laser surgery for these types of skin cancer. Speak with a representative from a facility like Countryside Dermatology & Laser Center for more information.