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How Many Radiation Treatments For Skin Cancer

Types Of Radiation Therapy Used For Basal Cell Carcinoma

Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer at Water’s Edge Dermatology

When radiation therapy is used to treat basal cell carcinoma and other skin cancers, the rays are focused from a machine onto the tumor this is known as external radiotherapy. For skin cancers, low-energy X-rays or electron beam radiation types of radiation that doesnt go deeper than the skin are administered.

What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer


Melanoma often looks like a mole or birthmark that is brown or black but is different in a number of ways.

Use the ABCDE system to remember the features that are concerning for melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: One side of the lesion looks different to the other side
    • Border: An uneven or jagged edge
    • Colour: Not uniform in colour, different colours
    • Diameter: It is larger than the eraser on the end of a pencil
    • Evolution: It is changing in shape, size and/or colour

    Melanomas can also bleed and become red or crusty. They may be itchy. Rarely melanomas are not brown or black.

    If you think that you have a mole or birthmark that looks abnormal, show it to your doctor.

    Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

    A non-melanoma skin cancer may have one or more of the following features:

    • Pink/Red
    • Open sore
    • Pimple-like spot

    If you are concerned about unusual skin changes, especially if they dont heal by themselves, see your doctor.

    Diagnosing Squamous Cell Carcinoma

    The main way to diagnose squamous cell carcinoma is with a biopsy. This involves having a small piece of tissue removed from the suspicious area and examined in a laboratory.

    In the laboratory, a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to determine if it is a skin cancer. He or she will also stage the cancer by the number of abnormal cells, their thickness, and the depth of penetration into the skin. The higher the stage of the tumor, the greater the chance it could spread to other parts of the body.

    Squamous cell carcinoma on sun-exposed areas of skin usually does not spread. However, squamous cell carcinoma of the lip, vulva, and penis are more likely to spread. Contact your doctor about any sore in these areas that does not go away after several weeks.

    Read Also: Etiology Of Basal Cell Carcinoma

    Basal Cell Carcinoma Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Skin And Actinic Keratosis Often Appear As A Change In The Skin

    Not all changes in the skin are a sign of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, or actinic keratosis. Check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin.

    Signs of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin include the following:

    • A sore that does not heal.
    • Areas of the skin that are:
    • Raised, smooth, shiny, and look pearly.
    • Firm and look like a scar, and may be white, yellow, or waxy.
    • Raised and red or reddish-brown.
    • Scaly, bleeding, or crusty.

    Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin occur most often in areas of the skin exposed to the sun, such as the nose, ears, lower lip, or top of the hands.

    Signs of actinic keratosis include the following:

    • A rough, red, pink, or brown, scaly patch on the skin that may be flat or raised.
    • Cracking or peeling of the lower lip that is not helped by lip balm or petroleum jelly.

    Actinic keratosis occurs most commonly on the face or the top of the hands.

    How Much Radiation Therapy Costs

    BSc Radiotherapy Technology

    Radiation therapy can be expensive. It uses complex machines and involves the services of many health care providers. The exact cost of your radiation therapy depends on the cost of health care where you live, what type of radiation therapy you get, and how many treatments you need.

    Talk with your health insurance company about what services it will pay for. Most insurance plans pay for radiation therapy. To learn more, talk with the business office at the clinic or hospital where you go for treatment. If you need financial assistance, there are organizations that may be able to help. To find such organizations, go to the National Cancer Institute database, Organizations that Offer Support Services and search for “financial assistance.” Or call toll-free 1-800-4-CANCER to ask for information on organizations that may help.

    Also Check: Can You Die From Basal Cell Skin Cancer

    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 , although the total treatment course may be slightly longer, ranging from 3 to 4 weeks.

    Want to know more about your options for treating skin cancer using advanced radiation modalities? Call us today at . You can also contact us using our easy online form.

    Radiotherapy For Skin Cancer

    Radiotherapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. There are 2 main types of radiotherapy, external and internal radiotherapy .

    External beam radiotherapy directs radiotherapy beams at the cancer from a machine. This is different to internal radiotherapy which means giving radiotherapy to the cancer from inside the body.

    You usually have external radiotherapy for non melanoma skin cancer. But in some cases, your doctor might use brachytherapy instead. But this is less common.

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    At The Dermatology And Laser Center Of San Antonio

    About The Treatment

    Over his career, Dr. Davis has performed over 25,000 skin cancer operations. While surgery is still the primary way to treat that disorder, sometimes, it can be a challenge for certain patients. In the last 10 years or so, a number of FDA-approved devices that deliver superficial radiation for skin cancer have become available in the US. These devices allow a Dermatologist to perform in-office radiation treatment for skin cancer. At Dermatology and Laser Center of San Antonio, we use one such device from a company called Xstrahl out of the UK. Xstrahl, which makes a lot of larger radiation devices in Europe, but has now developed a very good device for the Dermatology office.

    Staying On Track With Radiation Treatments

    Radiation therapy for skin cancer patients

    The benefits of radiation therapy strongly depend on getting the full recommended dose without significant breaks, because:

    • The full dose of radiation is needed to get rid of any cancer cells remaining after surgery.
    • Radiation therapy is most effective when given continuously on schedule. In the past, it was given every day, 5 days a week, for 5 to 7 weeks. Accelerated, also called hypofractionated, radiation therapy schedules deliver about the same total dose of radiation over a shorter schedule usually 3 to 4 weeks, which can be more convenient. Partial breast radiation can be completed in 1 to 3 weeks. Also, by seeing your doctor regularly during and after treatment, you can best deal with any side effects.

    Why you might have problems sticking to your radiation therapy plan:

    • The treatment schedule may conflict with job demands, family needs, or the distance you live from the treatment facility. This may cause you to miss or postpone appointments, even if youre on an accelerated schedule.
    • Skin irritation from radiation can cause soreness, peeling, and sometimes blisters. If you’ve also had lymph-node surgery, radiation treatment may worsen breast or underarm pain or discomfort. If you have these side effects, you might feel like stopping radiation.

    Ways to overcome problems and stay on track with radiation treatment:

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    After Radiation Therapy: Pay Attention To Your Treated Skin

    Some side effects occur weeks, months, or years after your last radiation treatment. This can happen even if you had no side effects during treatment. To catch these side effects early, dermatologists recommend the following:

    • Watch your treated skin for signs of change. After treatment, its important to pay close attention to the skin that was treated with radiation therapy.If you see redness, a rash, or any other change, call your oncologist or dermatologist.

      Rash caused by radiation therapy

      The right skin care may lessen the side effects that develop on your skin.

    • Protect the treated area from the sun. Anyone who has had radiation treatments has a higher risk of developing skin cancer in that area. Skin cancer tends to show up many years later, so this makes sun protection essential for life.To find out how to protect your skin, go to Prevent skin cancer.

    • Make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist. By having a dermatologist, you have a specialist to see if you develop a skin problem later. This is especially important since you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

    Coping With Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy

    Everyoneâs experience with radiation therapy is different. Side effects vary from person to person, even when given the same type of treatment. Before your treatment, ask your health care team which physical side effects are possible and what to watch for. There can also be emotional side effects, and seeking out mental health support to help with anxiety or stress is important. Ask your health care team about ways to take care of yourself during the treatment period, including getting enough rest, eating well, and staying hydrated. Ask whether there are any restrictions on your regular exercise schedule or other physical activities.

    And, continue talking with the team throughout your treatment. Always tell your health care team when side effects first appear, worsen, or continue despite treatment. That will allow your health care team to provide ways to help you feel better during and after treatment.

    Also Check: Can You Die From Basal Cell Skin Cancer

    How Do I Enquire About Radiation Therapy With My Healthcare Professional

    The best person to speak to you about radiation therapy is a Radiation Oncologist. Your general practitioner, dermatologist or surgeon can refer you to a Radiation Oncologist close to you to discuss whether radiation therapy is appropriate for you.

    Find your closest radiation oncology Treatment Centre

    How Long Does The Procedure Last

    Harnessing the Power of Radiation Therapy to Treat Cancers ...

    Patients can expect to be in the office about 15 minutes. We get the patient ready, mark the area to be treated, place the treatment cone flat against the skin. Once that has been done, Dr. Davis administers the radiation. The treatment generally lasts about 1 to 2 minutes. After the treatment, we remove the markings we placed on the patient, and the patient is on their way to enjoy the rest of their day.

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    Why Does Radiation Therapy Cause Side Effects

    High doses of radiation therapy are used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects come from damage to healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area. There have been major research advances in radiation therapy in recent years that have made it more precise. This has reduced this treatment’s side effects, compared to radiation therapy techniques used in the past.

    Some people experience few side effects from radiation therapy. Or even none. Other people experience more severe side effects.

    Reactions to the radiation therapy often start during the second or third week of treatment. Or, they may last for several weeks after the final treatment. Some side effects may be long term. Talk with your treatment team about what to expect.

    What To Expect From Radiation Therapy

    The procedure for receiving radiation therapy is painless and is completed in a matter of minutes . Sometimes, radiation therapy for basal cell carcinoma can cause side effects, but they typically only occur locally, in the area being treated. For example, side effects might include skin irritation, changes in skin color, or hair loss around the area receiving the treatment. Side effects may be exacerbated with longer treatment.

    For more information about how radiation therapy can be used for treating basal cell carcinoma, call or submit a new patient registration form online to consult with an oncologist specializing in skin cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center.

    • BROWSE

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    Radiation For Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Sometimes breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body. When this happens, the breast cancer is called metastatic or stage IV.

    If youve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and are having symptoms, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to:

    • ease pain
    • lower the risk of a cancer-weakened bone breaking
    • open a blocked airway to improve breathing
    • reduce pressure on a pinched spinal cord or nerve that might be causing pain, numbness, or weakness
    • treat cancer that has spread to the brain

    The radiation dose and schedule to treat metastatic breast cancer depends on a number of factors, including:

    • the level of pain or amount of function lost
    • the size of the cancer
    • the location of the cancer
    • the amount of previous radiation youve had
    • the schedule for any other treatments

    When Is Radiation Therapy Used

    Radiation Treatment for Skin Cancer, Patient Education, Florida Cancer Specialists

    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.

    Also Check: What Is The Survival Rate For Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

    What Questions Should I Ask Before Radiation Therapy

    Questions to ask your doctor about radiation therapy include:11

    • What is the goal of radiation therapy for me?
    • What are the other options for treating my cancer?
    • How will the radiation be delivered? How often and for how long will I need treatments?
    • What short-term side effects should I expect?
    • What are the long-term side effects of radiation treatment?
    • How likely is it that the cancer returns or spreads without radiation therapy? How likely is recurrence or metastasis with radiation therapy?
    • How often should I have follow-up exams with my dermatologist to check for cancer recurrence or a second skin cancer?

    Caring For Yourself During Treatment

    • Get plenty of rest during treatment.
    • Follow your doctorâs orders. Ask if you are unsure about anything or if you have questions about your treatments and side effects.
    • Tell your doctor about any medications or vitamins you are taking, to make sure if theyâre safe to use during radiation therapy.
    • Eat a balanced diet. If food tastes funny or youâre having trouble eating, tell your doctor of dietician. They may be able to help you change the way you eat.
    • Treat the skin exposed to radiation with special care. Stay out of the sun, avoid hot or cold packs, and only use lotions and ointments after checking with your doctor or nurse. When cleaning the area, use only water and a mild soap.
    • Battling cancer is tough. Donât be afraid to ask friends, family, support groups and your radiation oncology team for help.

    Also Check: Tumor Calcification

    Questions To Ask The Health Care Team

    • Who is creating my radiation therapy treatment plan? How often will the plan be reviewed?

    • Which health care professionals will I see at every treatment session?

    • Can you describe what my first session, or simulation, will be like?

    • Will I need any tests or scans before treatment begins?

    • Will my skin be marked as part of treatment planning?

    • Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having this treatment?

    • How long will each treatment session take? How often will I have radiation therapy?

    • Can I bring someone with me to each session?

    • Are there special services for patients receiving radiation therapy, such as certain parking spaces or parking rates?

    • Who should I talk with about any side effects I experience?

    • Which lotions do you recommend for skin-related side effects? When should I apply it?

    • How else can I take care of myself during the treatment period?

    • Will special precautions be needed to protect my family and others from radiation exposure during my treatment period?

    • What will my follow-up care schedule be?

    Working During Radiation Therapy

    Harnessing the Power of Radiation Therapy to Treat Cancers ...

    Some people are able to work full-time during radiation therapy. Others can work only part-time or not at all. How much you are able to work depends on how you feel. Ask your doctor or nurse what you may expect from the treatment you will have.

    You are likely to feel well enough to work when you first start your radiation treatments. As time goes on, do not be surprised if you are more tired, have less energy, or feel weak. Once you have finished treatment, it may take just a few weeks for you to feel betteror it could take months.

    You may get to a point during your radiation therapy when you feel too sick to work. Talk with your employer to find out if you can go on medical leave. Check that your health insurance will pay for treatment while you are on medical leave.

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