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In topical treatments for skin cancer, a prescribed cancer-fighting medication is applied to the skin in the form of an ointment, lotion or cream. Traditional chemotherapy medications administered orally or intravenously infrequently are used in the management of skin cancers.
Why choose topical medications
Topical medications can be effective for the treatment of pre-malignant skin conditions such as actinic keratoses. These medications also may be used in some cases to treat small and shallow basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Topical medications occasionally can offer non-invasive alternatives to surgery, although these treatment options often have less success than surgical treatment methods.
What you should know about topical medications
Topical skin cancer treatments use medications to directly target cancer cells or to promote an immune response intended to eliminate cancer cells. These topical treatments are performed by the patient at home with the doctor monitoring the process during office visits. Topical treatment length can range from two to 12 weeks for pre-cancerous skin lesions to six to 12 weeks for uncomplicated skin cancers.
As with any skin cancer treatment, there are risks associated with the use of topical prescription medications, though they are minimized in the hands of a qualified ASDS dermatologist. Risks include:
- Open sores
- Permanent textural or pigmentary changes to the skin
- Cancer recurrence
- he need for additional tumor treatments
In some cases, patients may experience a severe skin reaction, resulting in extensive oozing, crusting and ulceration at the site of medication application. Some patients also can develop flu-like symptoms from the use of topical medications.
The cost for topical medication prescription drugs range from $300-$600. Since most medical insurance companies consider skin cancer treatment to be medically necessary, the costs of prescription medications to treat skin cancers usually are partially or completely covered by insurance carriers.
How to prepare for the procedure
Before the procedure, an ASDS dermatologist will review the patient's medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is also the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potentials risks/benefits and outcomes of the procedure.
What to expect after the procedure
Most patients experience a prolonged but temporary redness in the topical treatment area. During treatment, patients should avoid exposure to the sun. Topical medication application instructions will be provided by the prescribing physician.
Find a doctor for your topical medication treatment
Visit "Find a dermatologic surgeon" and choose “Skin Cancer Treatments & Reconstruction” from the dropdown menu. In 2013, ASDS doctors performed nearly 3.04 million skin cancer treatments, up from 2.7 in 2012. Because ASDS dermatologists are trained in the best and latest techniques, they are the most qualified to evaluate and select the best treatment choice based on the individual patient’s condition.