More people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States than any other type of cancer. Survival rates are excellent if the condition is found and treated early in its development. Early treatment offers the best possible chances for skin cancer cures.
Doctors define success in cancer treatment based on whether a person is alive and without signs of cancer after five years from the date on which they were diagnosed. The cure rate, also known as the five-year rate of survival, varies with the type of skin cancer with which a person is diagnosed.
Individuals diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, for instance, have the highest survival rate. This is because the cancer is so slow-growing and rarely spreads beyond the initial site. These persons can anticipate a treatment success rate of greater than 99 percent.
In comparison, people who have had squamous cell carcinoma can anticipate a five-year survival rate of slightly more than 95 percent. Although this cancer is a nonmelanoma, and fairly slow growing, it can spread to the lymph nodes and blood if not treated early.
If a person diagnosed with malignant melanoma is treated when the cancer is still in one location, the cure rate is about 88 percent. About eight in ten persons detect their cancer at this point. If the cancer has already begun to spread to lymph nodes, chances of survival are only about 58 percent. If the cancer has metastasized, or spread to other major body organs, about one in ten persons will be alive five years after diagnosis.
Doctors use different treatments to attempt to cure people with skin cancer. Some cancers are more easily cured than others. Basal cell tumors, for example, are typically so small that a person is considered cured after the tumor is removed. Squamous cell cancer, however, may require additional treatment, especially if the cancer has spread. Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common forms of treatment.
Because melanoma is so difficult to cure, physicians often rely on a combination of medications, radiation, chemotherapy, or other procedures that are undergoing clinical trials to attempt to cure this cancer. Some of these investigational treatments include photodynamic therapy and biological therapies.
Diagnosing skin cancer early is extremely important. Skin cancer cures are most likely when the cancer is found early. Indeed, some doctors believe that more than 99 percent of all people who develop skin cancer can be cured if the cancer is discovered early and treatment is begun immediately.