The recent news about former president Jimmy Carter’s melanoma diagnosis has reminded us all of the seriousness of skin cancer. The bad news is that many of us will be affected by the disease—as many as one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in our lives. But the good news is that this type of cancer is typically easy to treat and has a high cure rate (when it’s found in the earlier stages), and that advances in technology have continued to further this cause. Check out some of the ways we use technology for skin cancer treatments at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta (DAA).
As any science buff who has heard about cryogenics would guess, cryotherapy prevents skin cancer by freezing the pre-cancerous cells. This procedure uses liquid nitrogen, and the goal is to destroy the targeted cells by freezing them quickly and then let them slowly thaw. For patients with actinic keratoses, cryotherapy can be an effective and minimally-invasive treatment.
CO2 Laser Treatments
Another minimally-invasive treatment option is the CO2 laser. These treatments use a concentrated beam of light to destroy the cancer cells with precision. The CO2 laser allows our board-certified dermatologists to remove thin layers of tissue, so that the damage is limited more closely to the actual lesion. For certain superficial skin cancers, CO2 laser can be a great alternative to surgery without any activity restrictions.
This topical medicine treats both pre-cancers as well as superficial skin cancers. It recruits the body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells locally where applied. It can be used as an adjunct to other treatments as well.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
For some patients, the best minimally-invasive way to treat their skin cancer or actinic keratosis is by targeting the cells with the correct type of light. During the PDT procedure, a type of solution called a photo synthesizer is applied to the treatment area. The photo synthesizer naturally accumulates in skin cancer cells more than healthy cells. After application, your doctor will expose the area to a specified type of light. The light activates the photo synthesizer which damages the cancer cells because of the large amount of photo synthesizer present, while the healthy cells remain unharmed.
While these technological advances have made early-stage skin cancers much easier to treat, finding a cancerous lesion early is the key. We recommend that every patient visits us for a skin cancer screening every year (or more frequently for those who have already had a skin cancer). A skin cancer screening is simple exam during which we’ll look from head to toe for any skin spots which have changed or any areas that may be cause for concern. Schedule an appointment at DAA for your annual skin cancer screening, or, for more helpful tips and dermatology news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.