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Your Skin Cancer Care Team: Dermatologist, Oncologist & Specialists

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region designated by the National Cancer Institute.

Our melanoma experts and skin cancer specialists are some of the most highly trained experts in the world. We offer a multidisciplinary approach to skin cancer care with cutting-edge therapies. UPMC clinical trials, for example, offer treatments that may be unavailable elsewhere.

If you're diagnosed with skin cancer, you'll have a whole team of health care professionals taking care of you. Each one has a specific role to play in your treatment.

Your care team may consist of the following skin cancer specialists.

Dermatologist

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in skin conditions. Dermatologists treat everything from acne to various types of skin cancer.

Your dermatologist may recommend a full-body skin exam to locate anything unusual. The doctor may then perform a biopsy, where he or she takes samples of tissue from a growth or lesion, if any growths suspicious for skin cancer are identified. When biopsy results come back from the lab, your dermatologist can tell you what they mean.

Your dermatologist can treat some skin cancers on an out-patient basis. But for some high-risk, rare, or advanced cancers, the doctor may need to refer you to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Oncologist

An oncologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats cancer. Oncologists manage your case, come up with treatment plans, and follow up with your recovery.

There are several types of oncologists at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Who you see, and when, will depend on the type of skin cancer you have and how advanced it is. Your specific treatment plan may involve one or more therapies.

Surgical oncologist

A surgical oncologist treats cancer with surgery. Skin cancer surgery is often the first choice in treating melanoma.

If your skin cancer is treated with surgery, your surgical oncologist will remove the tumor, plus some skin surrounding it. They may also remove lymph nodes near the tumor to minimize the chance of the cancer spreading.

Your skin cancer care team may recommend radiation or another cancer treatment after surgery.

Medical oncologist

A medical oncologist treats cancer with medicine.

These treatments may be used in addition to surgery, or they may be used when surgery isn't possible:

  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or keep them from spreading. You may take it in the form of a pill, a shot, or IV fluids. Alternatively, your doctor may place it directly in the tumor.
  • Immunotherapy uses concentrated amounts of the body's natural substances to boost the immune system. It's also called biotherapy.
  • Targeted therapy uses drugs to target the molecules involved with the spread of cancer. The drugs block the growth and spread of cancerous cells. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapy doesn't affect normal cells.

Radiation oncologist

A radiation oncologist treats cancer with high-energy rays (such as x-rays) or particles (photons, electrons, or protons). Radiation can often cure basal or squamous cell cancers and slow the growth of more advanced cancers.

Most people will need some form of radiation during their cancer treatment. It's often used in combination with other treatments.

Oncologists at the UPMC Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program pioneered the use of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). This technique uses radiation beams to pinpoint tumors while leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed. SRS allows doctors to treat cancer without having to make an incision.

Oncology Nurse

An oncology nurse specializes in caring for people with cancer. Your oncology nurse will be your go-to resource for any questions or concerns you have about your treatment.

As part of your skin cancer care team, your oncology nurse will:

  • Give you treatments.
  • Work closely with other members of your cancer care team.
  • Ask questions about your physical and mental health.
  • Talk with family members about your care at home.
  • Support and comfort you and your loved ones.
  • Refer you to cancer resources near your home.

Pathologist

Pathologists work in labs. They examine body fluids or tissue samples under a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells. They may also test for genetic or chromosomal abnormalities.

After examining your samples, your pathologist will write a report for the oncologists. This detailed report helps the doctors understand your condition. They can also help determine the stage of your cancer.

Mental Health Professionals

Going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment can take a toll on your mental health. You are likely to go through many emotional ups and downs.

Our mental health experts, which include psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed counselors, can provide support and guidance. They can also help your loved ones understand the unique stress caused by cancer. Together, you can come up with a plan for meeting the challenges ahead.

If necessary, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help you manage your psychological symptoms.

Nutritionists

Whether you're in treatment for cancer or recovering from the disease, it's important to eat a healthy diet. To be at its strongest, your body needs the right nutrients.

Our registered dieticians are board-certified in oncology nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These skin cancer experts can help you map out a practical meal plan to help you feel your best.

Pain Management Experts

Pain management spans several disciplines. Your pain management team may include doctors, psychologists, pharmacists, acupuncturists, and interventional pain specialists. They work together to minimize your pain during your skin cancer treatment and recovery periods.

Social Workers

Social workers can help you with the practical aspects of life when you're dealing with skin cancer. That might include everything from learning about community resources to managing financial concerns and later returning to the workplace.

They're also specialized in couples and family counselling. In other words, they can help improve relationships strained by a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Interpreters

If English isn't your first language, navigating the health care system can be challenging. Our interpreters can help you communicate with your team of medical experts.

Palliative Care Team

Palliative care can improve your quality of life if your skin cancer is no longer responding to treatments. The team also offers support and comfort to family members.

Our palliative care team provides symptom management, family support, psychosocial care, and spiritual care. They can also help with discharge planning, home care, and hospice care.

Contact the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program

To learn more about melanoma and skin cancer care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, please call us at 412-647-2811.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides free skin cancer screenings on the third Friday of every month at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside. To make an appointment for a free screening, call 412-692-4724.