Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell

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Treating Skin Cancer - Basal and Squamous Cell TOPICS

How are basal and squamous cell skin cancers treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

If you have been diagnosed with basal or squamous cell skin cancer, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. Depending on your situation, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. Many basal and squamous cell cancers (as well as pre-cancers) are treated by dermatologists – doctors who specialize in treating skin diseases. If the cancer is more advanced, you may be treated by another type of doctor, such as:

  • A surgical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with surgery
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with chemotherapy or other medicines
  • A radiation oncologist: A doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy

Based on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, your treatment options may include:

Different approaches might be used to treat basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis, and Bowen disease. Fortunately, most of these cancers and pre-cancers can be cured with fairly minor surgery or other types of local treatments.

(Other skin cancers, such as melanoma, lymphoma of the skin, Merkel cell carcinoma, Kaposi sarcoma, and other sarcomas are treated differently and are discussed separately, in other pieces.)

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask to have it explained. (See the section “What should you ask your doctor about basal and squamous cell skin cancers?” for some questions to ask.)

Last Medical Review: 04/02/2015
Last Revised: 04/03/2015