Are There Options To Prevent Or Treat These Side Effects
Yes. Your health care team can help you prevent or relieve many side effects. Preventing and treating side effects is an important part of your overall cancer treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care. Before treatment begins, ask what side effects are likely from the specific type of treatment you are receiving and when they may happen. And during and after treatment, let your health care team know how you are feeling on a regular basis.
Surgery Vs Radiation Therapy For Skin Cancer
Historically, surgery has been the most common way to treat non-melanoma skin cancer, particularly for minor, early-stage cases. Since basal and squamous cell carcinomas tend to start small, are slow-growing, and frequently do not spread right away, surgery may offer the best treatment.
For these reasons, surgery is often an excellent option. Through various surgical procedures, including Mohs surgery, cryosurgery, and curettage with electrosurgery, a physician can quickly remove the cancer before it grows, spreads, or causes additional damage. The effectiveness of each surgical approach is different, but all have very high curative rates.
At the same time, radiation therapy provides an excellent treatment option for skin cancer, either as an alternative to surgery or an adjunctive treatment in combination with surgery.;
In many cases, radiation therapy may be used in place of or in combination with surgical options. Depending on a patients specific medical situation, overall health, age, and preferences, radiation therapy may be the best option available.
If youve got basal or squamous cell carcinoma, youll want to talk to your doctor and cancer team about the options that are best suited for your particular case. Several highly effective treatments are available, and your best choice will depend on your circumstances and preferences.
Factors to consider when choosing a treatment for skin cancer include:
What Is Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is the treatment of cancer using radiation. During radiation treatment, radiation is directed to the target tissue and transmits energy that damages and destroys the cancer cells. It does this by damaging the genetic material of the cells which triggers cell death. The radiation damages genetic material in both normal and malignant cells and does not discriminate between them. However, normal cells are able to recover from the damage, whilst the cancer cells do not. Radiation therapy aims to maximize the number of cancer cells destroyed, while minimizing the damage to nearby normal cells.
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Heart And Lung Problems
Because of the location of your heart and lungs in relation to your breasts, radiation has the potential to cause heart and lung problems down the road though this is far less common than the other side effects weve covered, as radiation has improved significantly over the years.
Radiation can harm your heart by causing your arteries to harden or your heartbeat to become irregular, or it can inflict valve damage.
If your lungs are affected, this can present as chest pain, shortness of breath, or a cough or you may show no symptoms at all and the lung inflammation may only be caught on an x-ray. Symptoms typically dissipate on their own, but sometimes patients are given medications to ease the inflammation. If left untreated, the inflammation can turn ugly and cause pulmonary fibrosis, which is a permanent scarring of the lungs that can affect breath capacity.
However, todays techniques have advanced to the point where the heart and lungs are typically not affected by radiation treatment.
Serving Anderson & Greenville Sc And Surrounding Areas
We welcome patients and family from all over the world, but mostly those living within a hundred-mile radius of Anderson and Greenville, South Carolina.
AnMed Health & Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology are charter members of Levine Cancer Institute’s cancer care network. Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute aims to build “a cancer institute without walls,” by increasing access to specialist consultations, research offerings, program offerings and services to member institutions throughout the Carolinas.
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Types Of Cancer That Are Treated With Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy is used to treat many types of cancer.
Brachytherapy is most often used to treat cancers of the head and neck, breast, cervix, prostate, and eye.
A systemic radiation therapy called;radioactive iodine, or I-131, is most often used to treat certain types of thyroid cancer.
Another type of systemic radiation therapy, called targeted;radionuclide;therapy, is used to treat some patients who have advanced prostate cancer or;gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumor;. This type of treatment may also be referred to as molecular radiotherapy.
Benefits Of Radiation Therapy For Skin Cancer
While slightly less curative than surgery, radiation therapy has a very high rate of success.;
Radiation therapy may be the most effective option for high-risk squamous cell and basal cell lesions that have close positive margins, nerve invasion, high growth rate, or the possibility of nodal involvement.
Radiation therapy may also be very effective as an adjuvant therapy in combination with other cancer treatment options, optimizing the effectiveness of both.
As a primary treatment option, radiation therapy for skin cancer has many benefits, including:;
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When Is Radiation Therapy Used For Cscc And Metastatic Cscc
Surgery is usually the preferred way to treat CSCC. But radiation therapy is a treatment choice for CSCCs that are superficial or cant be cut out. Some elderly patients who arent well enough to have surgery may consider radiation treatment for their skin lesions.
Sometimes radiation is used after surgery if theres a high risk that the cancer will spread. In this case, the therapy lowers the chances that the cancer will come back.
Doctors might also recommend radiation for metastatic CSCC if your tumor is large, has grown deep, or is hard to remove. It can also be used to treat skin cancers that have spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
If your cancer is very advanced, radiation therapy can help lessen your pain and make you more comfortable.
Looking After Your Skin During Radiotherapy Treatment
Your radiotherapy team will tell you;how to care for your skin during and after treatment.
Tips for looking after your skin:
- Gently wash your skin with warm water
- Dont use perfume, perfumed soaps or lotions on the area as it can irritate the skin
- Pat your skin dry using a soft towel, do not rub
- Dont shave the area being treated speak to your radiotherapy team if you really need to remove the hair, it may be better to use a hair trimmer instead
- Dont use any creams or dressings on the treatment area unless advised by your doctor or radiographer
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How Does Radiation Therapy Work
Radiation therapy uses special high-energy X-rays or particles to damage a cancer cells DNA. When a cancer cells DNA is damaged, it cant divide successfully and it dies.
Radiation therapy damages both healthy cells and cancer cells in the treatment area. Still, radiation affects cancer cells more than normal cells. Cancer cells grow and divide faster than healthy cells and also are less organized. Because of this, it’s harder for cancer cells to repair the damage done by radiation. So cancer cells are more easily destroyed by radiation, while healthy cells are better able to repair themselves and survive the treatment.
The treatment area may include the breast area, the lymph nodes, or another part of the body if the cancer has spread.
Radiation treatments are carefully planned to make sure you receive the greatest benefits and the fewest side effects possible.
- Brachytherapy/Internal Radiation
- Internal radiation, called brachytherapy by doctors, uses a radioactive substance sealed in seeds or tiny tubes that are placed inside your body directly into the cancer or the place where the cancer was. Read about brachytherapy.
Another type of radiation therapy, called intraoperative radiation therapy, is a type of partial-breast radiation. With intraoperative radiation therapy, the entire course of radiation is delivered at one time during breast cancer surgery. Read more about intraoperative radiation therapy.
Outcomes Of Radiation Therapy For Metastatic Cscc
CSCC is typically easy to treat if its caught early. But, once CSCC has metastasized to other areas of the body, the prognosis isnt as good. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, less than half of people who have a CSCC thats spread beyond the skin live five years.
Some studies have shown radiation therapy may help improve survival and lower the likelihood of recurrence in certain patients with CSCC. The therapy can also function as a palliative treatment, helping to provide comfort and relieve pain.
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Vitamins And Dietary Supplements
Many people ask about taking vitamins during treatment. You may take a daily multivitamin, if you wish. Dont take more than the recommended daily allowance of any vitamin. Dont take any other vitamins or any supplements without talking to your doctor. This includes both nutritional and herbal supplements.
Tips For Skin Care During Radiation
Do you have a sight, or a smell, that instantly puts your mind back in an oncology waiting room, an infusion center, or a radiation oncology wing? For me, its the smell of the moisturizer that I was prescribed when I was going through radiation therapy for breast cancer. Its a sickly sweet smell. And, while I dont really like to remember it, I have to admit that moisturizer was a godsend during radiation.
As every cancer patient knows, taking care of your skin during radiation is challenging. You feel like your skins about to peel right off, but you still have to put on clothing. The shower feels uncomfortable, but you still have to bathe. You itch, but youre not supposed to scratch.
Youve probably heard some of the more common advice:
- Wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Keep your skin moisturized. But make sure you use the products your doctors recommend not your favorite stuff from the beauty counter!
- Avoid bathing in water thats too hot or too cold. Stick with lukewarm water.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Think how painful a sunburn might be on irradiated skin. Cover up. Wear a hat. Stay in the shade.
- Dont scrub your skin. This is not the time for loofahs and exfoliants. And if youre getting head radiation, Id imagine the last thing youd want is a facial.
- Dont wear makeup, perfume, or deodorants on the areas being treated.
Most of these are common sense, of course. But here are some things that dont always get across:
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What Could Be The Harm In Trying Home Remedies For Skin Cancer First
First, you may not know exactly what kind of lesion you are self-treating. Accurate diagnosis of skin cancer requires examination by a healthcare professional. There are three main types of skin cancer, and several subtypes of each. Although there are typical features of each type, cancerous lesions may have atypical features. Even dermatologists use special magnifying glasses and handheld imaging devices. These tools help them to identify suspicious lesions. A skin biopsy is needed to confirm that a lesion is cancerous.
Second, delaying effective treatment for skin cancer can lead to worse outcomes. One risk of using a home remedy is that it will not work, giving the cancer time to grow. Of the three major skin cancers, melanoma is the most likely to invade and spread if it is not treated early.1 About 5% to 10% of squamous cell carcinoma is aggressive.2 Squamous cell carcinoma is difficult to treat once it spreads. Although basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to distant parts of the body, it can grow into bone or the tissue below the skin if left untreated.3
Your Role On Your Radiation Therapy Team
Youre part of your radiation therapy team, and your role includes:
- Arriving on time for all of your radiation therapy appointments.
- Asking questions and talking about your concerns. We have included a list of possible questions at the end of this resource.
- Telling someone on your radiation therapy team when you have side effects.
- Telling your doctor or nurse if youre in pain.
- Caring for yourself at home, including:
- Quitting smoking, if you smoke. If you want to quit, call our Tobacco Treatment Program at .
- Following your healthcare teams instructions to care for your skin.
- Drinking liquids as instructed by your healthcare team.
- Eating the foods suggested by your healthcare team.
- Maintaining your weight.
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Administration Of Radiation Therapy
In New Zealand most radiation therapy is supervised and prescribed by specially trained radiation oncologists, based in the main clinical centers . Most radiation therapy is given on an outpatient basis, involving a number of visits.
The initial visits will typically involve planning how the radiation therapy is to be administered. At this point the radiation oncologist determines the exact area to be irradiated, and the type and dose of radiation that will be used.
The dose of radiation can be given all at once, but it is usually divided into several smaller doses, called fractions. This is done as the time between doses allow the normal cells to recover from the radiation induced damage. This ultimately reduces side effects and allows a higher total dose of radiation to be safely used. For most skin cancers a total of 1025 fractions of radiation treatment are administered. The radiation therapy is administered by a specially trained radiation therapist, and each fraction usually takes 1520 minutes to administer. Fractions are usually given on a daily basis ; hence a full treatment course can take between 25 weeks to complete.
When Is Radiation Therapy Used
If a tumor is very large or is on an area of the skin that makes it hard to remove with surgery, radiation therapy may be used as the main treatment. Radiation therapy can also be useful for some patients who, for other health reasons, cant have surgery. Radiation therapy can often cure small basal or squamous cell skin cancers and can delay the growth of more advanced cancers.
Radiation is also useful when combined with other treatments. For example, radiation can be used after surgery as an adjuvant treatment to kill any small areas of remaining cancer cells that may not have been visible during surgery. This lowers the risk of cancer coming back after surgery. Radiation may also be used to help treat skin cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
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Travelling To Radiotherapy Appointments
You might have to travel a long way each day for your radiotherapy, depending on where your nearest cancer centre is. This can make you very tired, especially if you have side effects from the treatment.
You can ask the therapy radiographers ;for an appointment time to suit you. They will do their best, but some departments might be very busy. Some radiotherapy departments are open from 7am till 9pm.
Car parking can be difficult at hospitals. You can ask the radiotherapy staff if they can give you a hospital parking permit for free parking or advice on discounted parking. They may be able to give you tips on free places to park nearby.
The radiotherapy staff may be able to arrange transport if you have no other way to get to the hospital. Your radiotherapy doctor would have to agree. This is because it is only for people that would struggle using public transport and have no access to a car.;
Some people are able to claim back a refund for healthcare travel costs. This is based on the type of appointment and whether you claim certain benefits. Ask the radiotherapy staff for more information about this.
Some hospitals have their own drivers and local charities might offer hospital transport. So do ask if any help is available in your area.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
The radiation procedure itself is usually painless.
But like most treatments, radiation therapy can cause unwanted side effects, such as:
- Skin irritation, including redness, peeling, and blistering
- Skin color changes
- Damage to teeth and saliva-making glands when the cancers are near these areas
Side effects tend to be worse the longer treatment continues.
Radiation can be hard on your body. Be sure to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and follow your doctors instructions while undergoing this therapy.
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Difficulty Eating And Drinking
Many side effects of radiation therapy to your head and neck can make it hard to eat and drink. This can cause weight loss, fatigue , and dehydration.
If your weight changes, the mask used during your treatment may not fit correctly. This can make it harder to stay in the correct position for your treatments. Follow the guidelines below to help keep your weight from changing.
Change what you eat and drink based on your side effects
If you have pain or soreness in your mouth or throat or have trouble swallowing:
- Eat soft, moist, bland foods. Take small bites and chew the food well.
- Use sauces and gravies to soften foods.
- Avoid things that may irritate your mouth and throat, such as:
- Very hot foods and liquids
- Dry, hard, and coarse foods
- Acidic or citrus foods and juices
If your mouth is dry:
- Rinse your mouth before eating.
- Use gravies and sauces to prepare your food.
- Drink liquids while eating dry foods .
If you have appetite loss:
If you have nausea:
Get enough nutrition during your treatment
For information about getting enough nutrition before, during, and after radiation therapy to the head and neck, watch the video Nutrition Before and During Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer.