Radiation For Metastatic Melanoma
Radiation can also help people with melanoma that has spread to other areas of the body. For example, when melanoma spreads to the brain, one option may be stereotactic radiosurgery. This procedure allows doctors to deliver a single high dose of radiation directly to a tumor. It can eliminate the tumor with few side effects.
IMRT can be combined with image-guidance technology. This approach is called IG-IMRT. It allows for a precise delivery thats more effective than other forms of radiation therapy at controlling melanoma. Some metastatic tumors can be eliminated when high doses of radiation are used with stereotactic techniques, also known as SBRT.
Different Types Of Cancer Start In The Skin
Skin cancer may form in basal cells or squamous cells. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer. They are also called nonmelanoma skin cancer. Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that sometimes becomes squamous cell carcinoma.
Melanoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. It is more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
This summary is about basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, and actinic keratosis. See the following PDQ summaries for information on melanoma and other kinds of cancer that affect the skin:
Facts About Skin Cancer
- The skin is the bodyâs largest organ. Its job is to protect internal organs against damage, heat and infection. The skin is also the most exposed organ to sunlight and other forms of harmful ultraviolet rays.
- More than 1 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers will be diagnosed in the United States this year. These cancers can usually be cured. 65,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year.
- More than 7,000 men and 3,710 women will die from the disease this year.
- Melanoma is 10 times more common among Caucasians than in African-Americans.
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What Are The Risks Of Radiation Therapy
The electrons used for external-beam radiation therapy for skin cancer do not go deeper than the skin.1,2 This limits the side effects of radiation therapy.2 Nevertheless, there are many possible side effects of radiation. They include:2,4,6
- Skin irritation or sunburn-like reaction
- Changes in skin color
Brain radiation therapy can cause problems such as memory loss, headaches, trouble thinking, and reduced sexual desire.4
Early And Late Effects Of Radiation Therapy
- Early side effects happen during or shortly after treatment. These side effects tend to be short-term, mild, and treatable. Theyre usually gone within a few weeks after treatment ends. The most common early side effects are fatigue and skin changes. Other early side effects usually are related to the area being treated, such as hair loss and mouth problems when radiation treatment is given to this area.
- Late side effects can take months or even years to develop. They can occur in any normal tissue in the body that has received radiation. The risk of late side effects depends on the area treated as well as the radiation dose that was used. Careful treatment planning can help avoid serious long-term side effects. Its always best to talk to your radiation oncologist about the risk of long-term side effects.
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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.
What Are Radiation Therapy Side Effects
Most people receive radiation therapy spread out over multiple treatment sessions so they dont receive the full dose all at once. The treatment schedule gives your healthy tissue time to recover between sessions. The healing time reduces side effects.
Still, you may experience unpleasant side effects that your radiation oncologist will help manage. Usually, these side effects only affect the part of your body receiving radiation directly.
Side effects may include:
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How Long Does The Procedure Last
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. Then, 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.
Questions To Ask The Health Care Team
Consider asking the health care team these questions about your radiation therapy appointments:
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?
Will I need an immobilization device during radiation therapy? If so, can you describe that to me?
Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having this type of 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 daily 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?
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What Is Radiation Dermatitis
Radiation dermatitis or radiation burn is a side effect of radiation therapy to treat cancer. Each year, an estimated 4 million people in the United States receive radiation therapy, and more than 90% will have some form of radiation dermatitis or develop radiation burn.
Most radiation burn symptoms are mild and easily treated. An estimated 20% of people who receive radiation therapy may develop more serious symptoms that affect their daily life and may make them fearful or reluctant to continue radiation therapy.
Healthcare providers understand all the ways radiation therapy can affect people receiving cancer treatment. Providers and researchers continuously evaluate ways to limit and treat radiation burn.
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.
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Is Internal Radiation Therapy Used To Treat Skin Cancer
Internal radiation therapy is when a radioactive material is placed on or in the body.1 This type of radiation therapy is one of the main treatments for melanoma of the eye. A radioactive plaque is placed near the tumor. The word for this is brachytherapy. The plaque stays in place for several days. Then your doctor removes it.3
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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Diagnostic And Staging Evaluation
BCC and SCC are usually diagnosed on the basis of routine histopathology obtained from a shave, punch, incisional, or excisional biopsy.
Other tests and procedures may be incorporated into the diagnosis and staging of BCC and SCC of the skin when appropriate and include the following:
- Physical examination, including skin examination and history.
- Computed tomography scan or positron emission tomography CT scan of the head and neck or chest.
- Ultrasonography of the regional lymph nodes.
- Lymph node biopsy.
Ophthalmic examination or evaluation is performed for the diagnosis and staging of eyelid carcinoma.
Working During Radiation Therapy
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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What Else Do I Need To Know About Radiation Therapy Treatment Appointments
During your treatment period, your radiation oncologist will check how well radiation therapy is working. Typically, this will happen at least once a week. If needed, they may adjust your treatment plan.
While being treated, many people experience fatigue and sensitive skin at the site of radiation therapy. You may also experience emotional distress during radiation therapy. It is important to rest and take care of yourself during radiation therapy. Consider these ways to take care of yourself:
Special Diet Needs While On Radiation Therapy
Radiation can cause side effects that make it hard to eat, such as nausea, mouth sores, and throat problems called esophagitis. Since your body uses a lot of energy to heal during radiation therapy, it is important that you eat enough calories and protein to maintain your weight during treatment.
If you are having trouble eating and maintaining your weight, talk to your doctor or nurse. You might also find it helpful to speak with a dietitian. For more information about coping with eating problems see the booklet Eating Hints or read more about side effects.
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Cancer May Spread From Where It Began To Other Parts Of The Body
When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began and travel through the lymph system or blood.
- Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
- Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if skin cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually skin cancer cells. The disease is metastatic skin cancer, not lung cancer.
Radiotherapy Treatment For Skin Cancer
IMOR Institute has the latest radiotherapy treatments for cancer and other complementary or parallel treatments. Our medical specialists will be responsible for determining what skin cancer treatment to apply in each case and according to the situation and characteristics of each patient.
Here we want to discuss these treatment options that can be applied, as well as other issues related to side effects, possible symptoms of skin cancer and the situations in which it is better to apply the treatments aimed at destroying squamous cells, basal cells and melanomas depending on the type of cancer.
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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:
Treatment For Skin Cancer
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. The first is the one that appears in the epidermis and is often discovered in areas such as the mouth, lips, ears It does not usually spread and can be cured. The second one develops in the squamous cells and is found in the aforementioned areas as well as neck, arms, back It is also curable in nearly all cases.
Malignant melanoma is an increasingly common cancer. Although it is the most dangerous of the above-mentioned subtype, it is very curable if it is discovered timely. If it metastasizes and affects the liver or lungs, it will be very difficult to cure. Depending on the type of cancer and its stage, if t is more or less advanced, we will opt for a treatment or a combination of several treatments. On the other hand, we can also treat other diseases such as the case of actinic keratosis.
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How Long Do Side Effects Last
Remember that the type of radiation side effects you might have depends on the prescribed dose and schedule. Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation.
Side effects might limit your ability to do some things. What you can do will depend on how you feel. Some patients are able to go to work or enjoy leisure activities while they get radiation therapy. Others find they need more rest than usual and cant do as much. If you have side effects that are bothersome and affecting your daily activities or health, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment youre getting. Tell your cancer care team about any side affects you notice so they can help you with them.
What Is Radiation Recall
Radiation recall is a rash that looks like a severe sunburn. It is rare but it can happen when certain types of chemotherapy are given during or soon after external-beam radiation therapy.
The rash appears on the part of the body that received radiation therapy. Symptoms may include redness, tenderness, swelling, wet sores, and peeling skin.
Typically, these effects start within days or weeks of starting radiation therapy. But they can also appear months or years later. Doctors treat radiation recall with medications called corticosteroids. Rarely, it may be necessary to wait until the skin heals to continue with chemotherapy.
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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.