If you have skin cancer and can no longer undergo surgery due to advancing age or coexisting health problems, superficial radiation therapy (SRT) is a groundbreaking treatment option.

This non-invasive approach addresses cancer on or close to the skin’s surface. It offers several advantages for varying dermatological and superficial cancers, making it a popular choice among patients of all ages. However, when considering skin cancer treatments for elderly patients, healthcare professionals have plenty to consider.

According to the National Council on Aging, 80 percent of adults aged 65 and older have at least one health issue, while 68 percent have two or more. In particular, the prevalence of high blood pressure (hypertension), elevated blood sugar levels (diabetes), Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions necessitates reviewing cancer treatment options meticulously, ensuring the best possible outcomes while avoiding complications.

The purpose of this writing is to highlight the benefits of superficial radiation therapy for seniors and discuss what patients, their loved ones, and doctors should consider before choosing this treatment option. By understanding the advantages and challenges of SRT for the older population, patients can weigh their options, and healthcare providers can optimize patient care.

Benefits of Superficial Radiation Therapy for Elderly Patients

These advantages allow dermatologists to meet an elderly patient’s precise needs, contributing to improved treatment outcomes, enhanced comfort, and better quality of life. 

1. Non-invasive treatment option

From heart failure to postoperative delirium, the elderly face increased risks for complications when undergoing surgery. Superficial radiation therapy provides an alternative treatment option that avoids the potential dangers and extended recovery time associated with surgery. This non-invasive technique minimizes the physical strain on seniors, allowing them to undergo treatment without excessive disruption to their daily lives.

Related: Superficial Radiation Therapy vs. Surgery for Skin Cancer

2. Reduced discomfort and pain

Elderly patients with underlying health conditions alongside skin cancer may already experience pain or discomfort. This non-invasive approach eliminates the need for incisions and surgical intervention, further reducing physical trauma and post-treatment pain.

3. Quick treatment sessions

Superficial radiation therapy involves short treatment sessions typically lasting a few minutes. This brief duration minimizes physical strain on elderly patients, as they may have limitations in their mobility, stamina, or tolerance to prolonged treatment sessions.

Furthermore, with shorter treatment times, seniors are more likely to complete their prescribed treatment course without interruptions or missed sessions. This adherence can enhance the effectiveness of superficial radiation therapy and improve overall treatment outcomes.

4. Precise targeting and preservation of healthy tissue

Superficial radiation therapy allows for precise targeting of the affected area, minimizing the risk of radiation exposure to neighboring healthy organs and tissues. This accuracy is beneficial for elderly patients who may have pre-existing health conditions or compromised physiological reserves. By limiting radiation exposure to healthy tissue, superficial radiation therapy reduces the potential for treatment-related complications.

5. Reduced side effects compared to other treatments

Compared to surgery or traditional external beam radiation therapy, this technique causes fewer side effects. This advantage is especially favorable for seniors, as they may have reduced tolerance for common side effects (pain, fatigue, dry and itchy skin, etc.) and may be more psychologically vulnerable to how treatments affect their well-being.

Customizing Superficial Radiation Therapy for Elderly Patients

Superficial radiation therapy can be personalized to meet the specific needs of elderly patients, considering their overall health, treatment goals, and individual circumstances.

Here are vital considerations for tailoring superficial radiation therapy for seniors:

1. Individualized treatment planning

Elderly patients may have varying physiological reserves and tolerances. Therefore, treatment planning should involve careful consideration of dose fractionation and scheduling. For instance, fractionating the radiation dose into smaller, more frequent treatments can minimize the impact on healthy tissue and reduce the risk of side effects.

Those specializing in superficial radiation therapy must also consider comorbidities, medication interactions, and potential interactions with other ongoing therapies to ensure optimal outcomes.

2. Multidisciplinary care from different specialists

Oncologists, geriatricians, psychologists, and other relevant medical specialists must work together to provide comprehensive care, as well as navigate the challenges associated with treating skin cancer in seniors.

3. Side effect management

The physical changes associated with advancing age make elderly patients more susceptible to treatment-related side effects. Radiation oncologists and their medical assistants should be able to respond to any side effects that may arise during treatment. For example, ongoing vitals monitoring and timely interventions can help minimize the impact of side effects and prevent complications.

Case Studies

According to a study published in 2019, superficial radiation therapy eliminated basal cell (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in elderly patients, resulting in a 97.4 percent cure rate. A study from 2015 noted similar findings, concluding that SRT is an additional modality that oncologists can use to treat skin cancer in the elderly population, as it may provide comparable effectiveness and cosmesis to more invasive options.

The Bottom Line

Superficial radiation therapy offers remarkable advantages as a treatment option for seniors with skin cancer. Its non-invasive and virtually painless nature, quick treatment sessions, and precise targeting capabilities make it a valuable option that aligns with the needs of elderly patients. Furthermore, by recognizing and addressing factors such as coexisting medical conditions and psychological concerns, healthcare professionals can tailor treatment plans, engage in multidisciplinary care, and provide necessary supportive care to optimize treatment outcomes.

Superficial Radiation Therapy in Scottsdale, Arizona

Buckeye Dermatology specializes in providing superficial radiation therapy for all ages. Our team especially understands the unique needs and considerations of elderly patients, and we are dedicated to delivering the exceptional care they deserve. Our state-of-the-art facility has the latest technology in superficial radiation therapy, ensuring precise targeting of affected areas while preserving healthy tissue. 

SRT can address several tumor types, such as primary BCC, SCC, SCC in situ, and certain cases of cutaneous lymphomas and Kaposi sarcoma. The technique is also safe and effective against recurrent keloid scars that have become resistant to other modalities.

Dial 602-754-6075 now or send us an email at info@skindocaz.com to schedule a consultation.