Understanding Cancer

Skin Cancer

Most skin cancers come from over-exposure to UV light. This is usually from sun exposure, but can also be UV light from man-made sources, like tanning beds.

What to expect before, during, and after radiotherapy treatment:

Explore The Patient Pathway

The most common type of skin cancers are slow growing, but if untreated they can invade bone or other areas under the skin.

Cancers that develop from the pigment-making cells of your skin are called melanomas. They are fast growing and aggressive, and they show up first as a mole or freckle that has changed shape or colour. Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand.

In more detail

The most common types of skin cancers are keratinocyte carcinomas or keratinocyte cancers. They are called this because the cells resemble keratinocytes, the most common cell found in normal skin. Most keratinocyte cancers are either basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas.

Basal cell carcinomas make up 80% of all skin cancers, and usually develop on sun-exposed areas, especially the head and neck. These cancers tend to grow slowly but without treatment can grow into nearby areas, like bone or other tissues beneath the skin. After treatment, basal cell carcinoma can often reappear in the same place.

About 20% of skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers commonly appear on the face, ears, neck, lips, and backs of the hands. They can also develop in scars or chronic skin sores. They tend to grow and spread more than basal cell cancers, invading fatty tissues beneath the skin, lymph nodes and sometimes other parts of the body.

Keratoacanthomas are dome-shaped tumours that are found on sun-exposed skin. Many shrink or even go away without any treatment. But some continue to grow, and a few may even spread to other parts of the body. Less common types of skin cancer account for less than 1% of non-melanoma skin cancers, including merkel cell carcinoma, kaposi sarcoma and cutaneous lymphoma.

Share this page

Ask us a question

Do you have something to ask that isn't answered here? You can either try our FAQs page, or send us your question below.

The Patient Pathway

First Specialist Appointment

At the first specialist appointment you will meet with your specialist radiation oncologist (RO) to discuss the proposed radiotherapy treatment approach and answer any questions and concerns you may have. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.


At the orientation appointment a patient care specialist (nurse or radiation therapist) will explain the procedures in more detail and answer any concerns that you might have about ARO and your treatment. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.


Before starting treatment, you will attend a simulation appointment to determine the optimal body position for receiving treatment and provide a detailed picture of the area to be treated.

First Day of Treatment

Please arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so we can greet you and allow you time to get changed for your treatment. Please bring an extra layer of clothing (e.g. cardigan or jacket) should you feel cold while you wait in the treatment reception area. Please report to the ARO reception desk. For free parking please refer to the information below. See location and parking for more information.

During Treatment

Weekly reviews with your radiation oncologist or one of our patient care team will be conducted to monitor any side effects and provide on-going support and advice as required. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team to answer any questions and to ensure appropriate care is organised after your last treatment visit. This may include regular monitoring of blood results, appointments for dressings and management of side effects.

After Treatment

Usually 2-6 weeks after your last treatment visit you will meet with your radiation oncologist or the doctor that referred you to ARO. Your GP will also be sent a report about your treatment and will continue to provide for your general health needs. 

You are welcome to contact our patient care team to answer questions or concerns that you may have about your treatment or possible side effects up to 2 weeks following your last treatment visit.  Please phone our nurses on 09 623 6585, email aronurses@aro.co.nz or make an appointment during business hours. 

Should you require support after 2 weeks, please contact the ARO Specialist Centre on phone 09 623 6587 or email specialistcentre@aro.co.nz. For all other health concerns, please contact your GP, usual healthcare provider or local emergency facility. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate. This includes information on possible side effects and self care advice by treatment site.