Learn About Other Skin Cancer Treatment Options

If you or a loved one has skin cancer, it is important to talk with your dermatologist about all of the treatment options. There are 8 types of skin cancer treatment options for basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer. Doctors will pick a skin cancer treatment based on your type of skin cancer, where and how deep it is, and your age, health, and preferences.

You or your loved can—and should—be a part of that decision. Learn more about skin cancer treatment options and download this guide for talking with your dermatologist about the right choice for you.

Types of skin cancer treatment

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Treating skin cancer with surgery


With electrosurgery, a sharp instrument with a ring-shaped tip is used to scrape or shave off the cancer. The cancer cells left are killed with heat or a chemical. Many treatments may be needed to cure the cancer.

  • Curettage and electrodesiccation: During this type of electrosurgery, the doctor will cut the cancer out from the skin. A needle-shaped tool sends an electric current through the skin to stop the bleeding and kill the cancer cells.

Excisional surgery

During excisional surgery, the cancer and an area of healthy skin is cut out or shaved off. That skin is sent away to a lab and the person goes home. He or she may need to come back for another surgery to remove all the cancer.

  • Mohs surgery: One type of surgery for skin cancer. A Mohs surgeon cuts out the cancer and layers of the skin, checking for cancer cells each time and removing more skin until the cancer is gone.
Surgery-free treatments for skin cancer


Radiotherapy uses X-ray energy to kill the skin cancer cells without the need for cutting or numbing the skin or caring for wounds after treatment. Many treatments may be needed over a few weeks to cure the cancer.

  • Superficial Radiotherapy (SRT): Uses low levels of X-ray energy to kill the cancer cells
  • Image-Guided Superficial Radiotherapy (IG-SRT): Uses ultrasound images to measure the exact size and depth of the skin cancer to know exactly how much X-ray energy to use to kill the cancer cells; ultrasound images are also used to make sure the cancer is gone
  • Electronic Brachytherapy (EBX): High doses of X-ray energy, which do not go deep into the skin, to kill the cancer cells
  • Electron-beam Radiotherapy (EBRT): Uses electrons rather than X-ray energy to kill cancer cells


Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the skin cancer cells. The skin cancer and the healthy tissue around it may blister and fall off before the health skin grows back.

Photodynamic therapy

During photodynamic therapy, a special chemical is put on or in the skin cancer before a blue light or pulsed-dye laser is shined over the area to kill the skin cancer cells. People who have this treatment cannot be in direct sunlight for 48 hours after treatment.


Chemotherapy is a medicine that kills the cancer cells. It can be put right into your blood through an IV. Chemotherapies can also come as a cream or gel that is put right onto the skin.


Immunotherapy uses your body’s immune system to fight the cancer. There are different types of immunotherapies, which are given either as an IV or a cream.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies are treatments that find and kill specific types of cancer cells. There is more than one option of this type of treatment but both are taken as pills.

Use this discussion guide to help talk with your dermatologist about your skin cancer treatment options.

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