Does Medicare Cover Skin Cancer Treatment?

By Medicare Benefits - August 10, 2020

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, and identifying it early on is critical to ensure proper treatment can begin in an appropriate amount of time. There are three main types of skin cancer that you can be diagnosed with, and the treatments for each vary based on type and severity. Your Medicare benefits will likely cover both the diagnosis and treatment of all types of skin cancer.

What is Skin Cancer?

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the human body. While certain types of cancer may metastasize, or spread, from another part of the body to the skin, these cancers are not considered skin cancer. To understand skin cancer, it is important to first understand the anatomy of the skin. The most superficial, or outer, layer of skin is known as the epidermis. This layer provides protection from the outside world as it is waterproof, but it also contains pores to allow oil and sweat to escape.

The next deepest layer of skin is known as the dermis. The dermis is thicker than the epidermis and contains sweat and oil glands, hair follicles, connective tissue, and nerve endings. This layer of skin is also supportive and gives our skin elasticity and shape. 

The deepest layer of skin is the hypodermis. This layer is primarily fat, helping to provide cushioning and insulation. Genetics determine the thickness of this layer, and some parts of the body may have a thicker hypodermis than others.

There are three main types of skin cancer that you may be diagnosed with. Basal cell carcinomas are abnormal cell growths that affect the lower layer of the epidermis. This type of cancer grows slowly, but if left untreated, it can spread to other nearby tissues and bones, leading to cancer throughout the body.

Squamous cell carcinomas are found in the epidermis as well. However, this type of cancer spreads more quickly and has a higher chance of infecting the dermis, hypodermis, or other parts of the body.

Melanomas are cancers that affect the pigmented cells in the skin. These pigmented cells are called melanocytes, which is where melanoma gets its name. These cells make up the deepest layer of the epidermis, and this layer provides your skin color. Melanomas spread quickly and must be identified and treated rapidly.

Skin Cancer Treatments

Skin cancer can be treated with several different types of therapy depending on your current health and the area and severity of the cancerous growth. Some common procedures include the use of surgery to scrape off superficial cancerous cells or to remove larger areas of tissue to ensure all cells are removed and that the cancer will not be able to spread further.

Other treatments involve the use of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. These therapies can target the entire body or just a small area depending on the cancer type and size. Other therapy options may use lasers or topical creams to target small cancerous areas directly.

Medicare Coverage for Skin Cancer Treatment

Medicare Part A and Part B may work together to provide coverage for skin cancer treatments. If you need to be formally admitted to the hospital for a surgical procedure, your Medicare Part A benefits will provide coverage for part of the treatment. Part A coverage is also used if chemotherapy or radiation treatments are required and received in the hospital setting.

If you must receive outpatient procedures or visit your physician for a checkup or preventative services, Part B will provide coverage. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments provided on an outpatient basis will be covered by this part of your Medicare plan as well.

Additionally, if your skin cancer treatment requires you to take a prescription medication, you will need to have a Medicare Part D plan to receive coverage for medications you purchase at a pharmacy and take at home.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you will have at least the same Part A and Part B benefits as Original Medicare, and many include prescription drug coverage. 

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