Different types of treatment are available for patients with nonmelanoma skin
cancer and actinic keratosis. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some
are being tested in clinical trials.
Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking part in a
clinical trial. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help
improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients
with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the
standard treatment, the new
treatment may become the standard treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country.
Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the
NCI Web site. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a
decision that ideally involves the patient, family, and health care
One or more of the following surgical procedures may be used to treat nonmelanoma skin cancer or actinic keratosis:
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Chemotherapy for nonmelanoma skin cancer and actinic keratosis is usually topical (applied to the skin in a cream or lotion). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the condition being treated.
Retinoids (drugs related to vitamin A) are sometimes used to treat or prevent nonmelanoma skin cancer. The retinoids may be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. The use of retinoids is being studied in clinical trials for treatment of squamous cell carcinoma.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a cancer treatment that uses a drug and a certain type of laser light to kill cancer cells. A drug that is not active until it is exposed to light is injected into a vein. The drug collects more in cancer cells than in normal cells. Fiberoptic tubes are then used to deliver the laser light to the cancer cells, where the drug becomes active and kills the cells. Photodynamic therapy causes little damage to healthy tissue. It is used mainly to treat tumors on or just under the skin or in the lining of internal organs, such as the lungs and the esophagus.
therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight
cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost,
direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.
This summary section refers to specific treatments under study in
clinical trials, but it may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the
NCI Web site.
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