Treatment for Skin Cancer in Children
There are different treatment choices for skin cancer in children. Which may work best for your child? It depends on a number of factors. These include the type, size, place, and stage of your child’s skin cancer. Factors also include your child’s age, overall health, and what side effects you and your child will find acceptable.
Learning about your child’s treatment options
You may have questions and concerns about your child’s treatment options. You may also want to know how your child will feel and look, and how their body will work after treatment. You’ll want to know if your child will have to change their normal activities.
Because skin cancer is much more common in adults, many treatments have not been studied a lot in children. Your child's healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. They can explain what your child’s treatment choices are, how well the treatment is expected to work, and what the risks and side effects may be.
Your child’s healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or they may offer more than 1, and talk with you and your child to decide which to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It’s important to take the time you need to make the best decision.
Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore the options. You may want to get a second opinion before deciding on your child's treatment plan. You may also want to include your partner, spouse, family, or friends in this process.
Your child may have just 1 treatment, or a combination of treatments.
Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer in children. Many skin cancers can be removed easily and only very minor surgery is needed. Others may need a more extensive surgery. The surgery options include:
Excision. This is done to cut the cancer from the skin, along with a healthy rim of tissue around it.
Mohs surgery. This procedure removes the cancer and as little normal tissue as possible. It’s done in key areas such as the face, ears, or hands. During this surgery, the surgeon removes a thin layer of skin including the cancer, and then uses a microscope to make sure no cancer cells remain. If cancer cells are seen, another layer of skin is removed.
Targeted therapy uses medicines that work differently than chemotherapy. The medicine targets certain parts of cancer cells that make them different from normal cells. This leads to less damage to your child's normal, healthy cells.
This treatment is done with medicines that work with your child's immune system. It's also called immunotherapy, antibody therapy, or biotherapy. The medicines use your child’s natural immune defense to attack and kill the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy (chemo) is done with medicines that destroy cancer cells. It's not often used to treat skin cancer in children. Chemo can be put right on the skin to kill cancer cells. In cases of advanced cancer, the medicines may be given through an IV.
Clinical trials for new treatments
Researchers are always finding new ways to treat cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Taking part in a clinical trial means your child gets the best treatment available today, and might also get new treatments that are thought to be even better. Before starting treatment, talk with your child’s healthcare provider to find out if there are any clinical trials you should think about for your child.
Talking with your child’s healthcare provider
At first, thinking about treatment options may seem overwhelming. Talk with your child’s healthcare team and your family. Make a list of questions. Think about the benefits and possible side effects of each option. Also think about the side effects of each treatment choice. Discuss your questions and concerns with your child’s provider before making a decision.