For skin cancer treatment, PRO expands your options.
For many types of early stage non-melanoma skin cancers, radiation is an excellent curative treatment option. This includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma cancers. Also, radiation treatment for skin cancer can be delivered in two ways, depending on the size and location of the cancer.
How Princeton Radiation Oncology treats skin cancer with radiation therapy.
At PRO, our radiation oncologists use two main types of radiation therapy to treat skin cancer: brachytherapy and external beam radiation.
- HDR brachytherapy – With high-dose-rate brachytherapy, we use advanced computer-based planning and treatment to deliver a high dose of radiation directly to the skin cancer. Small radioactive “seeds” are temporarily placed on the cancer. This concentrates the dose on the skin’s surface, thereby minimizing exposure to deep tissues or organs. This results in highly effective treatments with minimal long-term side effects such as skin scarring. For this reason, brachytherapy is usually PRO’s first choice for radiotherapy for skin cancer.
- External electron beam radiation – For skin cancers that are larger or located in areas where brachytherapy isn’t possible, our specialists can treat the cancer effectively with electron beam radiotherapy.
Choosing between brachytherapy and surgical excision.
Both surgical excision and brachytherapy offer excellent rates of tumor control. However, in cosmetically sensitive areas such as the face, surgical excision can sometimes result in disfiguring scars, or large defects that require reconstruction with skin grafts. Brachytherapy, however, results in virtually no long-term scarring and is very well tolerated. It’s also fast and painless.
How is brachytherapy delivered?
At PRO, we administer brachytherapy as an outpatient procedure directly supervised by a specially trained radiation oncologist. We position a shielded applicator directly over the skin being treated, then connect it to a computer-controlled robotic device that contains the radioactive source.
We program the robotic device to position the radioactive source into the applicator to deliver a specific radiation dose precisely to the tumor. Your radiation oncologist directly monitors the entire process and remains in constant communication with you during the procedure through an intercom.
The typical course of treatment is seven sessions delivered approximately two to three times per week, but your total number of sessions may vary. Each treatment session is delivered over the course of just a few short minutes.
What are the side effects of brachytherapy for skin cancer?
Overall, brachytherapy skin cancer treatments are very well tolerated. During the weeks of treatment, you may experience limited skin redness, itching, or peeling. These changes occur gradually, are usually mild, and heal soon after treatment. Long-term side effects are rare, but they include minor cosmetic issues, such as:
- A slight change in color of the treated skin
- A possible minor scar at the tumor site
- Hair loss at the treatment site
External electron beam radiation treats the skin while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue.
For skin cancers that are larger or located on areas of the body that cannot be treated with brachytherapy, external beam radiation using electron beams is an excellent treatment option. We deliver electron beams through the same linear accelerators we use to deliver conventional photon radiation. Electro beams are unique in that they deposit the radiation dose near the surface of the skin without deep penetration into tissues or organs. This allows for treatments that are very well tolerated (like with brachytherapy), although the total treatment course may be slightly longer, ranging from 3 to 4 weeks.