Skin cancer

Treatment

Skin cancer can usually be treated successfully if it’s detected early. 

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) offers comprehensive skin cancer care at the Multidisciplinary Skin Oncology Clinic, including advanced treatments and new options available only through clinical studies.

A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming. We have an experienced, compassionate team ready to help. 

This page focuses on treatment for:

  • Precancerous skin conditions
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma 

We have dedicated sections about melanoma treatment and Merkel cell carcinoma treatment.

Skin cancer expertise at SCCA

Everything you need is here

We have dermatologists, surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who specialize in skin cancer; the most advanced diagnostic, treatment and recovery programs; and extensive support. 

Innovative skin cancer therapies

SCCA patients have access to advanced therapies being explored in clinical studies for skin cancer conducted here and at our founding organizations Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine.

Skin cancer treatment tailored to you

We view treatment as a collaborative effort. Your SCCA doctors will explain all your options and recommend a treatment plan based on the type, location, size and stage of your cancer and your overall health.

Team-based approach

Your personal team includes more than your skin cancer doctors. Additional experts who specialize in treating people with cancer will be involved if you need them — experts like a palliative care professional, social worker, physical therapist or dietitian.

Learn More About Supportive Care Services

Ongoing care and support

During and after treatment, your team continues to provide follow-up care on a schedule tailored to you. The SCCA Survivorship Clinic is also here to help you live your healthiest life as a skin cancer survivor.

Treatment types

Treatment looks different for different people depending on your diagnosis. We tailor your treatment plan to you. Learn more about the treatment types offered at SCCA. 

Cryosurgery

Doctors may use liquid nitrogen on precancerous conditions to freeze and kill the cells. The skin will later blister and shed off. This procedure will sometimes leave a white scar. More than one freezing may be needed.

Cryosurgery

Doctors may use liquid nitrogen on precancerous conditions to freeze and kill the cells. 

Laser therapy

If you have a precancerous condition that’s only in the outer layer of your skin, your doctors may use a narrow beam of high-intensity light to destroy the cells.

Laser therapy

If you have a precancerous condition that’s only in the outer layer of your skin, your doctors may use a narrow beam of high-intensity light to destroy the cells.

Curettage and electrodessication

This is a common procedure where the cancer is removed with a sharp, spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. Electrodessication uses an electric current to control bleeding and kill any remaining cancer cells after the doctor uses the curette. You may be left with a white, flat scar after this procedure.

Curettage and electrodessication

This is a common procedure where the cancer is removed with a sharp, spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. 

Surgery

Skin cancer-specialized surgeons

Our skin cancer surgeon team includes experts in surgical oncology, reconstruction and head and neck surgery. This team specializes in the treatment of skin cancer and you can feel confident knowing that the surgeon who cares for you is best-suited for your specific diagnosis.

Mohs surgery

This particular surgical technique removes the visible tumor and small fragments around the edge. The doctor will look at each fragment under a microscope until all the cancer is removed. This is typically used for larger tumors, tumors in hard-to-reach places and cancers that have come back in the same place.

Grafting

After a large tumor is removed, your surgeon may use a skin graft from another area of your body to close the wound and reduce scarring.

Surgery

Our skin cancer surgeon team includes experts in surgical oncology, reconstruction and head and neck surgery.

Radiation therapy

If you have skin cancer that is hard to treat with surgery, such as cancer on your eyelid, the tip of your nose or your ear, you may need radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays or other particles to kill the cancer cells.

Radiation therapy

If you have skin cancer that is hard to treat with surgery, such as cancer on your eyelid, the tip of your nose or your ear, you may need radiation therapy.

Topical chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer that’s limited to the top layer of the skin or to treat precancerous skin conditions. It may be prescribed in a cream or lotion form. These medicines are usually applied daily for several weeks. They may cause inflammation, which goes away after treatment.

Topical chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer that’s limited to the top layer of the skin or to treat precancerous skin conditions.

New treatments

Some doctors are using imiquimod (Aldara), which is an immune-response modifier, to treat early basal cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis (squamous cell carcinoma precursor) and very thin squamous cell carcinoma. It is a topical medicine applied several times a week.

New treatments

Some doctors are using imiquimod (Aldara), which is an immune-response modifier, to treat early basal cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis (squamous cell carcinoma precursor) and very thin squamous cell carcinoma. 

Treatment for advanced skin cancer

n rare cases, squamous cell carcinoma can grow deeper into the skin and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. The most susceptible areas are sites of a chronic inflammatory skin condition, mucous membranes (skin that lines the mouth, nose, vagina and anus) and the lips. Surgery alone is not effective in treating metastatic skin cancer. Your treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy (which boosts your immune system’s ability to fight the cancer.)

Treatment for advanced skin cancer

In rare cases, squamous cell carcinoma can grow deeper into the skin and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.