Pre-Cancer Treatments: Cryotherapy and Chemical Peels

Birmingham’s Top Pre-Cancer Treatments – Cryotherapy and Chemical Peels Practice

Cryotherapy for treating actinic keratosis (pre-cancers) is a staple of most dermatologists’ offices. During cryotherapy, a pre-cancer or other skin lesion is shot with liquid nitrogen (-320 degrees Fahrenheit!) to freeze and thus destroy the undesirable cells/skin lesions. It is a focal, powerful, and very effective treatment for pre-cancerous and other types of unwanted skin lesions, including skin tags, warts, and sebaceous hyperplasia.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the side effects of cryotherapy as a skin cancer treatment?

While temporary soreness is the most common side effect after cryotherapy, you may experience some pain in the treated area, swelling, blistering, redness, and discoloration of the affected site. Care should be taken on patients with darker skin tones as it may also damage the skin cells (melanocytes) that make the skin pigment leave a whitish patch after it completely heals.

What is the aftercare procedure after cryotherapy?

Frequently, no aftercare is necessary for cryotherapy. However, if a blister or sore forms at the treatment site on the skin, you should apply petroleum jelly to keep it moist and a bandage or band-aid. Two things have been repeatedly proven to aid in wound healing with minimal scarring – keeping the wound moist with petroleum jelly and keeping the wound covered.

Keeping the wound moist allows the skin cells to crawl from the outside of the wound towards the center, which is the still-healing part – which is how the healing process works. Keeping a bandage covering the area helps maintain a low-oxygen environment in the wound, which is ideal for healing. 

About Chemical Peels

Chemical peeling is often an ideal treatment for patients with sun-damaged skin and numerous pre-cancers (actinic keratoses). In this process, the doctor applies a combination of chemicals to an area of skin, which causes the top layer to peel off over the next 5-10 days.

  • Chemical peels are a type of "field therapy," in which an entire area such as the face, scalp, arms, or backs of the hands are treated, as opposed to treating single spots on the skin as with cryotherapy or surgery. Field therapy is like spraying the entire lawn for weeds instead of pulling out the weeds one at a time after they get big.
  • A single medium-depth chemical peel will typically reduce the number of pre-cancers (red, rough, scaly bumps) by 50-75 percent.
  • More than one treatment may be required the first year, with a maintenance chemical peel every 2-3 years.
  • An added benefit of medium-depth chemical peels is that they can have a significant cosmetic benefit in removing skin discoloration, rough spots, and fine wrinkles caused by a lifetime of sun damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the side effects of chemical peels?

For 1-2 days after being treated with a medium-depth chemical peel, you will have mild-to-moderate swelling of the treated area. Starting at days 3-4, your skin will begin to peel, revealing red-to-pink skin underneath. Over the next 3-6 weeks, the redness will fade to pinkness and then gradually back to the natural color of your skin. Patients prone to developing redness of their cheeks may experience longer-lasting pinkness after undergoing a chemical peel.

What is the aftercare procedure for a chemical peel?

After your chemical peel, our team will apply a coat of petroleum jelly to your entire face. It is imperative to keep the treated area moist with petroleum jelly non-stop for the next week until your skin is healed and no longer peeling. In addition to applying petroleum jelly, we will ask you to clean your skin with a mixture of white vinegar and water twice daily and wash your face with mild soap and water. Do not peel off any skin; you must let it come off on its own. Also, it will be essential for you to avoid any prolonged exposure to direct sunlight for the next 7-10 days. You can go outside, but just don’t stay outside!

Our Locations

St. Vincent’s East Campus
48 Medical Park Dr E #458, Birmingham, AL 35235
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St. Vincent’s St. Clair Outpatient Clinic
7063 Veterans Pkwy, Pell City, AL 35125

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Gadsden Regional Medical Center
300 Medical Center Dr E #402, Gadsden, AL 35903

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Make Your Appointment Today

Your skin’s health is vital. Our team of world-class doctors and surgeons are here for you, whether you need a full-body examination, biopsy, or skin cancer treatment, in a clean and caring environment. Call us today and schedule an appointment! We’re looking forward to seeing you.