Topical cancer treatment
Topical creams, gels, and serums, oral medication, and laser therapy are available as part of the effective treatment for certain skin cancers and precancers. Especially when detected early, many types of skin cancer and precancer respond well to these treatments, which offer noninvasive solutions that won't impact daily life. Tracy Evans, MD is a dermatologist, skin cancer specialist, and Mohs surgeon in San Francisco, CA who offers these treatments to patients diagnosed with actinic keratosis and basal and squamous cell carcinoma. Schedule your consultation with Dr. Evans at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin to find out if you are a candidate for a topical, oral, or laser skin cancer treatment.
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Some patients who have been diagnosed with actinic keratosis (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) could be candidates for these treatments. Topical, oral, and laser treatments can be prescribed alone or in combinations, and they have been shown to be effective in the treatment of nonaggressive skin cancers in the upper layers of the epidermis. A full evaluation is necessary for Dr. Evans to be able to determine if a patient is a candidate for one or more of these treatments as it depends on several factors, including the size, type, and stage of the cancer.
During your consultation, it is important for you to be very honest about any medications you take, allergies you have, etc. Some of the treatments should not be used with other medications, and some may have ingredients that could cause allergic reactions in some patients. Topical and oral medications should not be used by pregnant or nursing women.
Topical creams and gels, as well as oral medications, are generally given to the patient to use at home. They will be used in different doses and on different schedules, depending on your diagnosis. The duration of the treatment will also vary, but it could be from two weeks up to 16 weeks. Dr. Evans will go over all of the use instructions with you very carefully and explain the importance of following these instructions.
While you are using the topical creams or gels, your treatment area(s) will probably be red and feel a bit inflamed. This is normal and is a result of the medication working to destroy the cancer cells. Dr. Evans will need you to come into Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco for regular follow-ups so she can monitor your progress and check for any unusual reactions.
If Dr. Evans recommends that you have laser therapy as your treatment or part of your treatment plan, your treated skin will be slightly uncomfortable, itchy, and swollen for a few days afterward. Dr. Evans usually performs 3 – 5 sessions for skin cancer laser therapy, which need to be scheduled about 6 weeks apart.
What to Expect
Dr. Evans or a member of her team will give you important instructions on how to care for your skin during and after the treatment. Certain moisturizers, like those that are made with petroleum jelly, may be helpful to calm inflamed skin. Once you have completed your treatment, Dr. Evans will give you suggestions on how to help your skin recover and reduce any scarring. To avoid a recurrence of skin cancer, it is vital that you always protect your skin from the sun. This includes avoiding prolonged exposure to sunlight and any use of tanning beds, as well as always using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will insurance pay for topical or oral skin cancer treatment?
Skin cancer is a medical condition so most insurance companies will cover or partly cover skin cancer treatments, whether they are topical, oral, laser, or surgical. The overall cost associated with topical treatments differs from patient to patient, depending on the medication and duration of treatment. Dr. Evans can discuss estimates with you during your consultation.
What topical skin cancer treatments does Dr. Evans use?
Dr. Evans uses Aldara, Picato, and Efudex topical medications to help treat certain skin cancers or precancer. She also performs laser therapy for some patients. The oral medication Erivedge may be prescribed as part of a treatment as well. The use of any of these treatments depends on many aspects of your case so it is necessary for Dr. Evans to perform a thorough examination before she can determine what is best for you.
How do topical treatments reduce or remove skin cancer?
There is not a definitive answer to how these treatments are able to target skin cancer. Scientists think that some may be effective because they are able to change immune system responses. Others may work by blocking signal transmitters in the cells or by disrupting their metabolic processes.
How quickly do topical treatments work?
Each type of treatment will have varying durations for every patient, depending on several different factors of the diagnosis. Your treatment could last two weeks, 16 weeks, or possibly shorter or longer. Dr. Evans will talk with you about all of these details during your consultation if she determines you are a good candidate for topical or oral treatment.
How do I know if I am a candidate for topical treatment?
Topical and oral treatments are generally not effective for aggressive or deeply rooted skin cancers or for melanoma. Fortunately, Dr. Evans provides other treatments for these cases at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin and urges you to make an appointment if you would like to discuss your options.
A New Way to Treat Cancer
The early detection of skin cancer and precancer is key to a successful treatment. The earlier you are diagnosed, the more options you will have, and some of those options are simple and noninvasive, like topical and oral medication and laser therapy. Schedule your first appointment with Dr. Evans at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin. She is here for you, whether you need your first skin cancer screening, a second opinion, or are interested in her specialized treatments.