Why Radiation May Be Recommended to Treat Your Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancer. Both basal and squamous cells occur in the epidermis or the skin’s top layer. The less common and yet more deadly type of skin cancer is melanoma, which forms in skin cells that produce melanocytes.

If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer after a biopsy identifies the existence of cancer cells, your doctor may propose several treatment techniques. If detected in the early stages, minor surgery to remove the skin abnormalities may be the only necessary treatment. A procedure called Mohs surgery removes layers of skin to reach the cancer-free layer. Other early-stage treatments include photodynamic therapy and medicated creams.

Radiation therapy can sometimes be the best approach, depending on how advanced your cancer is or where it’s located.

When Is Radiation Therapy the Better Alternative?

Radiation therapy, also referred to as radiotherapy, kills or inhibits the growth of cancer cells by damaging their DNA through high doses of radiation. A machine delivers the radiation, and the radiation waves are aimed directly at tumors, minimizing the impact on other tissues or organs of your body. 

Radiation therapy to treat skin cancer is an effective alternative for patients who are not suitable for surgery. Some patients may be too weak for surgery, while others may have lesions in locations too challenging to remove with surgery. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas occur most commonly on sun-exposed skin, such as the scalp, ears or back of the neck, although they can occur anywhere on the body. In some cases, the lesions can be found inside the mouth, the genitals, earlobes, nostrils and the corners of the eye. Radiation may be recommended if surgery to remove the cancer would alter appearance or function.

Radiation therapy may also be recommended for patients with advanced basal or squamous cell carcinomas even after surgery. In these cases, radiation helps ensure any remaining cancerous cells have been eliminated. For melanoma patients, radiation therapy is mainly used when cancer has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.

What Are the Benefits of Radiation Treatment for Skin Cancer?

Radiation therapy is best for patients who can’t have surgery for other health reasons or a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer. The doctor may also recommend radiation therapy over surgery if nerve invasion is a concern due to the location of the skin cancer. Radiation treatment also does not cause any scarring and can be used in delicate areas. The treatments are short and painless and pose no risk of infection.

Some highly effective skin cancer treatment options include the use of Leipzig and Valencia Applicators with High Dose (HDR) Radiation, which is ideal for patients with small, superficial basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology offers the state-of-the-art Leipzig and Valencia Applicators with High Dose (HDR) Radiation as a skin cancer treatment option. More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.