Radiation therapy is a non-invasive treatment option for most early-stage skin cancers. Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery, to boost results and treatment impact. There are several types of radiation therapy, but all include the use of X-rays to destroy cancerous cells. This treatment may also be used in lieu of a surgical option depending on the patient’s overall health, age, and preference.
Radiation therapy is a popular skin cancer treatment because of its flexibility. It can be a great option for patients who are not fit for surgery, whose cancers are too large or difficult to biopsy, and who want a better cosmetic result. Radiation is also often deployed post-surgery as a safeguard against returning cancer. However, you cannot receive this treatment without a diagnosis, even if you have skin cancer symptoms. To get the treatment you may need, schedule a skin cancer screening at our Chesterfield office today.
What to expect with radiation therapy?
There are several types of radiation therapy, but most are provided via external beams. In this procedure, the doctor will position the machine over your tumor. If the cancer is in a delicate spot, such as near your eye, a shield will be applied during treatment as a protective measure. Like a dental X-ray, the doctor will leave the room during the treatment, which should only take a few minutes. In external beam radiation therapy, patients will not be able to see or feel the radiation.
Some forms of radiation therapy are conducted by brachytherapy, which involves placing radioactive elements, usually in the form of small wires, next to the cancerous tumor. This form of radiation may be used for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, depending on their location and stage.
Radiation therapy is provided as an outpatient procedure, wherein the patient visits the hospital, receives the treatment, and goes home that same day. Several visits are often required to achieve the desired results. In most cases, radiation therapy is provided for between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on the size of the cancer.
Radiation does not cause scarring and typically results in very little, if any, cosmetic damage. Treatments are generally very short and entirely painless, and healing at the tumor site generally occurs within two to six weeks of the end of therapy.
Are there any skin cancer radiation therapy side effects?
Radiation therapy side effects are typically minimal, as the treatment is targeted directly at the tumor. Side effects generally only appear in the area that has been treated. If side effects do occur, they may include one or more of the following:
- Pigment change
- Skin blistering or peeling skin
- Localized hair loss
How effective is radiation therapy for skin cancer?
Radiation therapy is often very effective when used in combination with other cancer treatment options. While slightly less therapeutic than surgery, radiation has a very high success rate. Importantly, radiation therapy allows patients to continue using medications that could cause complications with other forms of skin cancer treatment, like blood thinners.
Radiation therapy is most often used to treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but some melanoma patients may receive this treatment alongside other procedures. Talk to your doctor to find out if radiation therapy is a good option for your skin cancer.
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