Most chemotherapy drugs for early stage basal and squamous skin cancer are applied in the form of a lotion. For melanoma and more advanced stages of basal and squamous cell cancer, more powerful drugs are distributed via the bloodstream or in pill form to destroy cancerous cells. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a type of chemotherapy where the drug is activated by a light source such as a laser. PDT is only used for early stage skin cancer. The drugs are injected intravenously or rubbed onto the skin in the affected area. Cancer cells absorb these drugs more quickly than normal cells and maintain the drugs for a longer period of time. When the light source is aimed at the tumor, it activates the drugs and kills the cancer cells.
Although radiation therapy is not typically used to treat the original site of skin cancer, it can be used in combination with surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous cells and to help prevent a recurrence. Radiation therapy is also an option for cancer patients for whom surgery is not an option and for those who previously had surgery and whose cancer has returned or spread to the lymph nodes. Radiation therapy can be used to help shrink tumors, preserve function, alleviate pain and control symptoms.