The Skin Cancer Program
The Skin Cancer Program at CentraState Medical Center offers state-of-the-art services, expertise, and technology for detecting, diagnosing, treating and helping patients recover from different types of skin cancer. CentraState’s multidisciplinary, integrated approach to our Skin Cancer Program assures patients and their families continuity of care and convenience in a friendly, attentive environment.
Skin Cancer Types, Symptoms and Risk Factors
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Every year more than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with some type of skin cancer. Fortunately, skin cancers, including melanoma, can be successfully treated the earlier they are detected.
If you have (or have had) “any” of the following you could be at higher risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancers:
- Sunburns (at least one blistering burn) as a child or adolescent.
- Fair skin and light colored eyes.
- A personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers.
- A family history of melanoma.
- Multiple moles.
- Atypical (oddly shaped) moles.
- A mole or lesion that is changing size or shape or is itching or bleeding.
- A history of UVA sunbed/tanning salon use.
Types of Skin Cancer and Symptoms
There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma—the most serious type of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as:
- A pearly or waxy bump on your face, ears or neck.
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion on the chest or back.
Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears as:
- A firm, red nodule on the face, lips, ears, neck, arms or hands.
- A flat lesion with a scaly crusted surface on the face, ears, necks, arms or hands.
Melanoma warning signs include:
- A large brownish spot with darker speckles located anywhere on the body.
- A mole located anywhere on the body that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds.
- A small lesion (on the trunk or limbs) with an irregular border and red, white, blue or blue-black spots.
- Shiny, firm, dome-shaped bumps located anywhere on the body.
- Dark lesions on the palms, soles, fingertips and toes, or on mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina and anus.
Early Detection & Prevention (MoleSafe)
MoleSafe is a skin documentation system that uses total body photography to create an electronic record of your skin. CentraState was the first hospital in New Jersey to offer this advanced screening system.
Using a specialized digital camera, a trained nurse (melanographer) takes head-to-toe photos to create an electronic record of your skin. This record can be used during regular follow-up visits as a baseline for detecting changes in existing moles and lesions, as well as spotting any new ones. (To learn more, read our MoleSafe brochure)
Results from the MoleSafe screening are assessed and diagnosed by a melanoma dermatologist, and a detailed report is sent to your doctor that includes recommendations for treating and monitoring suspicious lesions.
Skin Cancer Treatment Options
Treatments for types of skin cancer can vary depending on the patient’s cancer severity and type of skin cancer. A patient in the CentraState Skin Cancer Program receives an individualized treatment plan based on the type of skin cancer, its size, location and the patient’s preference. Your physician will work with you to design the best treatment plan for your specific type of skin cancer.
Non-melanoma skin cancer
Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas) include:
- Cryosurgery or freezing—uses liquid nitrogen to destroy early skin cancers.
- Curettage and electrodessication—involves physically scraping away the skin cancer cells followed by electrosurgery, which uses an electric needle to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
- Laser therapy—uses a finely focused intense beam of light to vaporize the cancerous growth with little to no damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
- Mohs surgery—a procedure used for larger, recurring or tough-to-treat cancers, which may include both basal and squamous cell carcinomas. In this process, the skin is removed layer-by-layer. Each layer is examined under the microscope until no abnormal cells remain. It allows cancerous cells to be removed without damaging healthy skin.
- Drugs—topically applied retinoids, and in cases where the cancer is more advanced, chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy may be used.
Brachytherapy for Skin Cancer
A non-surgical approach for treating basal and squamous cell skin cancer that reduces the risk of infection and permanent scarring.
What is brachytherapy for skin cancer?
Brachytherapy uses a combination of advanced imaging, computer-based planning and treatment technology to deliver a high dose of radiation directly into the tumor or lesion. This targeted therapy minimizes damage to nearby healthy tissue and reduces side effects, such as scarring or infection.
What skin cancers can be treated with brachytherapy?
Early stage non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
What are the benefits of brachytherapy versus traditional treatments such as excision and cryotherapy?
Most non-melanoma skin cancers commonly occur on sun-exposed areas such as the nose or face. Excision and cryotherapy can leave unsightly scars in these highly visible areas. Brachytherapy provides an equally effective, non-invasive, pain-free treatment option with almost no occurrence of scarring. It is also a good option when a tumor is located in an area where the structure is vital to function, such as the hand or lip, or in areas that don’t heal easily like the shin or ankle.
How does skin brachytherapy work?
Specially trained radiation oncologists perform skin brachytherapy as an outpatient procedure in The Karen Olbis Radiation Oncology Center. The procedure involves a specially designed applicator which is placed externally, directly over the area to be treated. It is connected to a computer-controlled device, which contains a radioactive source. The device is programmed to deliver the precise radiation dose to the tumor via the applicator. Your physician controls the entire process, continually monitoring you from an adjacent room and speaking with you through an intercom. Your treatment is usually completed in 8 sessions but it varies on the location of the skin cancer and can range from 5-10 treatments. After your brachytherapy is complete, it is important to keep your follow-up appointments with your physicians so your progress can be monitored.
Are there any side effects?
Brachytherapy precisely targets the tumor, which minimizes damage to healthy skin and surrounding tissue. This helps to reduce the risk of side effects.
The side effects you may experience are determined by the size, location and type of tumor, as well as your unique response to treatment.
Side effects could include redness, itching, ulceration or scabbing at the treatment sites. These responses are usually mild, and go away or heal soon after treatment. Long-term side effects are typically minor and resolve over time. They may include a minor change in color to the skin treated, and possible slight scarring at the tumor site or hair loss in the treated area.
Melanoma skin cancer
Standard treatments for melanoma skin cancer include:
- Wide surgical excision—removes the cancerous tissue as well as a surrounding margin of healthy skin.
- Sentinel lymph node mapping(for deeper lesions)—helps to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes.
- Biological therapy or immunotherapy
- Radiation therapy
New methods in clinical trials are sometimes used to treat different types of skin cancer.