If you have had skin cancer in the past, you were likely treated with surgery to remove it. If you are diagnosed with another skin cancer in the future, be aware that there is a new, state of the art therapy that is:
- Fast and convenient (5 minutes per treatment, 6 total sessions, completed in less than 2-weeks)
- Highly effective (97-99% cure rate for most basal and squamous cell skin cancers)
- Unlike surgery, virtually no risk of bleeding, infection or scarring
- Can be used on most areas of the head, neck, body or extremities
- Covered by most insurance plans
This new treatment is called “brachytherapy” or “brachy” (pronounced like ‘brakey’), and is often an excellent alternative to skin cancer surgery (Mohs surgery, excision.) Technically, brachytherapy is not ‘new’ but the technology is. In fact, the earliest use of brachytherapy in the treatment of cancer was over 100 years ago.
Ideal candidates for skin brachytherapy:
- Biopsy confirmed diagnosis of either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma (the two most common types of cancer)
- Tumor size: less than 1 inch
How does skin brachytherapy work?
- We use a small robot, a tiny pellet of Iridium-192 and a skin applicator to deliver a very precise and superficial type of focused radiation directly over the skin cancer site.
What to expect during your treatments:
- The skin applicator is placed directly over the skin cancer site during the treatment.
- A catheter is connected to the robot of the skin applicator.
- To start the treatment, the robot is activated. It sends the tiny Iridium-192 pellet from the inside of the robot through the catheter and into the skin applicator. The pellet never contacts the skin, but is able to deliver the focused radiation rays onto the skin cancer.
- The treatment takes only 5 minutes.
- The robot then retracts the pellet back into its housing.
- The treatment is over.
What are the side effects of this treatment?
- You will not feel anything during each treatment
- Most patients will not notice any symptoms for the first 4 treatments.
- Typically, skin redness (like a sun burn reaction) will develop over the treated skin by the 5th or 6th
- Skin peeling or itchiness in the treated area can develop by the end of treatment or shortly therafter.
- In most patients, the skin reactions will resolve by 4 weeks after treatment.
How do you know if brachytherapy is right for you?
Radiation therapy is an excellent treatment for the two most common skin cancers (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas), however it may or may not be appropriate for you. It is important to discuss this with your physicians.
Start by asking your dermatologist if they believe that brachytherapy is a reasonable option for you.