Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, but also one of the most easily treatable and curable when detected early. Einstein’s Center for Skin Cancer and Melanoma Care offers comprehensive care for all types of skin cancer, including pre-cancerous lesions.
A skin cancer diagnosis starts with your dermatologist or primary care physician.
Periodic skin examinations to look for atypical moles or precancerous lesions can help detect skin cancer early, when it is curable. Skin screenings are recommended for people as young as 30 if they have a family history of skin cancer or are very fair-skinned. Einstein offers annual free skin cancer screening clinics, or you can make an appointment to get screened by an Einstein dermatologist.
Your doctor may take a tissue sample to determine if you have skin cancer, or refer you to a pathologist who will perform a biopsy. If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, your doctor may order additional tests such as a CT scan, chest X-ray, PET scan, ultrasound or lymph node biopsy to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of your body.
Einstein’s expert team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, plastic surgeons and nurse navigators make it easy to get fast, personalized care. Depending on the type of skin cancer, stage, location and other factors, your care team may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
In many cases, cancerous cells can be easily cut out of the skin. On highly visible or sensitive areas of skin, your doctor may perform micrographic surgery, sometimes called Mohs surgery. This procedure involves removing the tumor one thin layer at a time, and checking each layer under a microscope, ensuring the cancer is removed while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. For larger affected areas, your doctor may also cover the wound with a skin graft, which helps promote healing and can also serve cosmetic purposes.
A common treatment for many types of cancer, radiation therapy targets cancer cells with beams of cancer-killing radiation. At Einstein, we use highly advanced technology to deliver extremely precise doses of radiation, including the Varian TrueBream® linear accelerator (LINAC), which is available at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, and the Varian Trilogy®, which is available in both Philadelphia and Montgomery.
By creating a 3D map of the cancer using a variety of advanced imaging systems, we are able to guide the radiation beam with an incredible degree of accuracy, minimizing damage to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. The most common form of radiation therapy is stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) when targeting tumors in the brain. However, other types of advanced radiation therapy are also available at Einstein:
Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) – This type of radiation therapy allows your doctor to adjust the radiation beam as the tumor moves during treatment, which is especially useful for tumors in areas such as the lung.
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy – This type of radiation therapy uses multiple small beams of varying intensities that can change shape during the treatment, helping to deliver higher, more precise doses of radiation with fewer side effects.
RapidArc® Radiation Therapy – One of the fastest and most precise radiation treatments available is RapidArc®, which can deliver the same amount of radiation but up to eight times faster than other leading cancer treatments.
Alternatively, instead of shooting a beam of radiation at your cancer, internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, involves placing small radioactive “seeds” directly inside the tumor. This allows your doctors to use higher, more precise doses of radiation compared to external radiation therapy, usually resulting in fewer side effects and shorter treatment times. It may be an option for patients with prostate cancer, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and gynecological cancers.
In addition to surgery and radiation, a variety of other therapies may be recommended to kill cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, or prevent it from returning.
Chemotherapy drugs target and kill dividing cells, which makes them an effective treatment against cancer because cancer cells divide much more often than most normal types of cells.
Chemotherapy is often used in combination with other cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery, and can target cancer cells that may have been missed by other treatments or have spread to other areas of the body.
Your individual chemotherapy treatment plan will vary based on the type of cancer you have, where it is in your body, your overall health and other factors. A typical treatment plan may include four to eight rounds of chemotherapy, with several treatments per round, followed by a recovery period of two to four weeks. Most chemotherapy drugs are administered intravenously on an outpatient basis, but you may also have the option of taking tablets or capsules.
Immunotherapies are treatments that help your body’s immune system identify and attack cancer cells. These treatments may include lab-grown batches of your own cancer-fighting T-cells, drugs that block proteins that stop the immune system from targeting cancer cells, proteins that attach themselves to cancer cells to signal the immune system to target them, and cancer vaccines and other similar treatments.
Targeted therapies are also cancer drugs like chemotherapy, but they work somewhat differently by targeting cancer-specific genes, proteins or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Targeted therapies can have effects such as slowing or stopping formation of blood vessels that supply the tumor, triggering the immune system to attack the cancer cells, or increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Through our clinical trials program, Einstein offers some of the most cutting-edge experimental cancer therapies available anywhere. Learn more about our clinical trials program, and talk to your doctor to see if you qualify for any ongoing trials.
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To learn more about your cancer treatment options, or to get a second opinion, schedule a consultation with an Einstein specialist.
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