Diagnosis and Treatment of Skin Cancers | Loyola Medicine

Skin Cancer

Comprehensive Approach to the Treatment of Skin Cancer

Loyola Medicine is widely recognized for its comprehensive treatment of skin cancer. Combining world-class doctors with state-of-the-art facilities, Loyola is committed to offering you an interdisciplinary approach to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin cancer.

Skin cancer originates in the skin. While other cancer types can start elsewhere in the body and spread to the skin, these cancers are not classified as skin cancer. There are two main types of skin cancer: 

  • Keratinocyte cancers, which include basal and squamous cell cancer
  • Melanomas, which originate in the pigment-making cells of the skin

Both cancer types are common, and very treatable if caught in the early stages of development.
There are other types of skin cancers, but they are much less common, accounting for less than one percent of all skin cancer types:

  • Cutaneous (skin) lymphoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Skin adnexal tumors

The highly skilled doctors at Loyola are dedicated to understanding all skin cancer types and their specific cancer treatments, in order to increase cancer survival for our patients. At Loyola, you will receive the most comprehensive care from a team of specialists that may include a dermatologist, surgical oncologist, medical oncologist or radiation oncologist. Our doctors use the latest technologies, which enable us to remove skin cancer cells, reduce cancer spread and preserve your quality of life.

How is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?

Doctors at Loyola approach the diagnosis of skin cancer with rigor and care. Most often the process begins when a patient exhibits something unusual in the appearance of the skin. To start, a doctor may obtain personal and family medical history and conduct a physical exam.  If skin cancer is suspected, one of the following biopsies will likely be performed:

  • Incisional and excisional biopsies
  • Punch biopsy
  • Shave (tangential) biopsy

If a general biopsy indicates the potential spread of melanoma, you may be asked to undergo a more extensive biopsy to determine whether the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.  These biopsies could include:

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Surgical (excisional) lymph node biopsy

How is Skin Cancer Treated?

Determining your skin cancer type is the first step in developing the most effective treatment for your best possible outcome. If the diagnosis is basal or squamous cell skin cancer, the doctors at Loyola will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that may include:

The diagnosis of melanoma skin cancer requires a different treatment plan, which may include: 

Regardless of the kind or stage of your skin cancer, Loyola is committed to implementing an interdisciplinary approach to treatment that will provide you with the most current, advanced and successful skin cancer treatment.

Loyola is also widely recognized for its expertise in performing Mohs micrographic surgery for skin cancer. Mohs surgery is performed by a specially trained Mohs surgeon and involves a precise technique that offers:

  • Highest potential cure rate, up to 99% for skin cancer
  • Minimal risk of recurrence
  • Protection of healthy tissue, superior cosmetic results and minimal scarring
  • Removal of all skin cancer cells at the margins

Learn more about Mohs surgery.

Prevention, Early Detection and Screening for Skin Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. Despite being very common, skin cancer is preventable. 

To help prevent skin cancer, you can implement good skin care practices by doing the following:

  • Apply one tablespoon of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside
  • Avoid long hours of sun exposure
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths
  • Cover up with clothing, including broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Examine your skin (head to toe) once a month
  • Keep young infants out of direct sunlight to prevent sunburn
  • Seek shade between 10 am and 4 pm, when sun rays are strongest
  • Select sun protection products with the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation to guarantee that the product meets the highest standards for safety and effectiveness
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day
  • Visit your doctor every year for a professional skin cancer screening
  • Look for skin changes of any kind including:
    • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed
    • An open sore that does not heal within two weeks
    • A skin growth, mole, beauty mark or brown spot that:
      • Appears after age 21
      • Appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black or multicolored
      • Changes color 
      • Changes in texture
      • Increases in size or thickness
      • Is asymmetrical
      • Is bigger than six millimeters, the size of a pencil eraser
      • Is irregular in outline or border