Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common types of non-melanoma skin cancers. Historically, the predominant treatment protocols involved invasive procedures, often causing pain, scarring, and harm to healthy tissue. But because of Superficial Radiation Therapy (SRT), the future of non-melanoma treatment is far less invasive and painful.
What Is Superficial Radiation Therapy?
Superficial radiation therapy is a non-invasive treatment option for non-melanoma skin cancers like BCC and SCC. It utilizes low-energy X-ray radiation to kill cancer cells in the outer layer of the skin. The X-ray beams target the tumor, destroying the malignant (cancerous) cells while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue.
A session begins with the patient comfortably positioned, and a specialized device administers controlled doses of radiation to the affected area. Unlike deeper-penetrating radiation therapies, SRT’s limited reach concentrates on the skin’s outer layers, making it effective for addressing non-melanoma skin cancers and keloids. This surface-level precision ensures the therapy remains localized, reducing the risk of damage to internal structures. SRT’s targeted approach contributes to its success in delivering therapeutic outcomes while diminishing side effects.
Understanding Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancers represent a significant portion of diagnosed malignancies globally. Most BCCs and SCCs develop in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, and are often linked to prolonged sun exposure, tanning bed use, and other environmental factors. Unlike melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers grow slowly and are less likely to spread to other parts of the body. However, according to researchers, BCC and SCC are causing more global fatalities than melanoma. Early detection is crucial for survival.
For deeper insight: How to Tell Basal Cell vs. Squamous Cell Carcinoma Apart
Traditional Treatment Methods and Their Limitations
Conventional treatments for non-melanoma skin cancers include surgical excision, Mohs surgery, cryotherapy, and traditional radiotherapy. While these methods have demonstrated efficacy, they are not without drawbacks. Surgical interventions may leave scars and can involve longer recovery times. Conventional radiotherapy, while effective, can cause collateral damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
The Need for More Effective and Patient-Friendly Treatments
Despite advancements in non-melanoma skin cancer treatment, there is an increasing need for more patient-friendly and less invasive alternatives. Patients often seek therapies that eliminate cancerous cells and minimize the impact on their quality of life in terms of appearance and recovery time. This demand for more convenient and aesthetically favorable treatment options has pushed researchers and clinicians to explore innovative modalities like Superficial Radiation Therapy as potential game-changers in the field of dermatologic oncology.
Why Superficial Radiation Therapy Is the Future
SRT offers many benefits over traditional treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer.
- Painless: No more stinging or pain. SRT is a painless procedure performed on an outpatient basis with no anesthesia required. Unlike some traditional treatments, SRT does not involve cutting or bleeding. Read Superficial Radiation Therapy vs. Surgery for more information.
- Precise and targeted: SRT uses focused radiation beams to target cancer cells. It spares healthy cells and minimizes damage to the skin. This precision results in high cure rates and cosmetic outcomes.
- Controlled depth of penetration: Traditional radiotherapy can affect deeper structures in the body, often causing side effects like nausea, vomiting, muscle stiffness, fatigue, and diarrhea, among others. In contrast, SRT’s controlled depth of penetration confines its impact to the skin’s surface layers. This limitation reduces the chances of adverse side effects on vital organs or structures beneath the treated area.
- No downtime: Patients can resume normal activities immediately following treatment.
- Short treatment course: SRT requires 6 to 12 sessions over two to three weeks. Each treatment takes about 15 minutes from the time a patient arrives to when they leave the office.
- Reduces keloid recurrence: SRT significantly cuts keloid recurrence rates.
- Safe for older adults: For many seniors, superficial radiation therapy is a safe alternative that improves outcomes and quality of life. Read the Advantages of SRT for Seniors for more details.
- Excellent cosmetic outcomes: By preserving healthy tissue, SRT produces superior cosmetic results with minimal scarring or changes in skin appearance.
- Cost-effective: SRT does not require hospitalization, anesthesia, pain medication, and other expenses associated with surgical procedures.
In brief, superficial radiation therapy in Buckeye, AZ, offers an ideal solution for treating non-melanoma skin cancers. Its combination of non-invasive, painless, and targeted treatments with short courses, no downtime, excellent cosmetic outcomes, and lower costs are advantages that far outweigh traditional options.
Is SRT Right for You? Talk to a Buckeye Dermatologist Today
Potential candidates for superficial radiation therapy include:
- Patients with BCC or SCC: As discussed, SRT commonly treats these common forms of non-melanoma skin cancers.
- Individuals with superficial lesions: SRT is suitable for lesions or growths on the skin’s surface, making it effective for cancers on the face, neck, and ears.
- Patients unfit for other options: SRT is a non-surgical alternative for individuals who may not be for surgery or those who prefer a non-invasive treatment protocol.
- Elderly patients: SRT can be a safer option for elderly patients who may have comorbidities or other health factors that make surgery less desirable.
- Individuals with keloids: Since keloids are sensitive to X-ray radiation, SRT stops them from coming back, with a recurrence rate of 10 percent or lower.
Contact us to determine whether SRT is an appropriate treatment option based on the above and additional factors like the type and location of the lesion, the patient’s scarring level, overall health, and treatment preferences. Should there be any risks related to the patient’s skin type or scarring level, we will offer recommendations based on the consultation results.
The Bottom Line: Surgery Is Not the Only Option
Superficial radiation therapy is a well-received alternative to surgical interventions for non-melanoma skin cancer. Using measured doses of radiation, it can treat many early-stage BCC and SCC lesions while avoiding the risks and recovery times associated with surgical removal. Each session is painless, requires no anesthesia or cutting, and delivers superior cosmetic results.
Although SRT is available today and has provided high cure rates, continued research and refinement of radiation techniques will pave the way for SRT and related innovations to become first-line approaches for addressing BCC and SCC. Indeed, the future of non-melanoma treatment shines bright.