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Skin Cancer

A-Z Index

  • Introduction

The skin is the body's largest organ and protects individuals against infection and injury and helps regulate body temperature. The skin, which also stores water and fat and produces vitamin D, is made up of two main layers:

  • Epidermis (the outer layer of skin)
  • Dermis (the inner layer of skin)

Skin cancer occurs when abnormal, malignant cells form in tissues of the skin. It can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most common in places that have been exposed to more sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
    Skin cancer that forms in basal cells (small, round cells in the base of the outer layer of skin). Basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common form of skin cancer, almost never spreads (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Individuals with fair skin and who are older have higher rates of basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
    Skin cancer that forms in squamous cells (flat cells that form the surface of the skin). Squamous cell carcinoma is mainly caused by sun exposure, but it can appear on skin that has been burned, damaged by chemicals or excessively exposed to x-rays
  • Melanoma
    Skin cancer that forms in melanocytes (skin cells that make pigment). Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can spread (metastasize) quickly to other parts of the body through the lymph system or through the blood.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It is estimated that 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are highly treatable.


Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program

Virtua Fox Chase Cancer ProgramThe Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers a range of diagnostic procedures, advanced treatment options and personalized support services for those with suspected or diagnosed skin cancer.

Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan. Patients may obtain an outpatient second opinion with a Fox Chase Cancer Center oncologist who comes to Virtua to meet with the patient and family.

Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program's interdisciplinary care teams are staffed by oncology experts including board-certified, fellowship-trained surgical oncology specialists and medical oncologists. They have earned their fellowships from leading medical institutions such as New York University Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Oncology certified and advanced practice nurses provide education and support to patients and their families.

Interdisciplinary clinical care teams may also include:

  • Surgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Clinical oncology social workers
  • Dietitians and physical therapists
  • Radiation oncologists

Skin Cancer Treatment and Services

Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers the latest options available to treat skin cancer, including:

  • Surgery
  • Curettage and electrodesiccation: The cancer is removed with a sharp, spoon-shaped instrument called a curettage. An electric current is used to control bleeding and kill any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the wound. This is called electrodesiccation.
  • Mohs' surgery: The area is shaved one thin layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope until only healthy tissue is visible on the shavings.
  • Cryosurgery: Abnormal cells are frozen and killed
  • Laser therapy
  • Topical or systemic chemotherapy
  • Biological therapy (or immunotherapy)
  • Radiation oncology
  • National and regional clinical trials

The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program also offers a range of supportive services to help patients control pain, manage symptoms, relieve any side effects of therapy and deal with the emotional aspects of cancer.

Virtua locations specializing in Skin Cancer