New technology is making treating certain types of skin cancer easier than ever before with treatments so nonevasive that they can be done in a dermatologist’s office.
Electronic brachytherapy (eBx) uses a targeted, precise form of radiation applied directly to the skin to treat nonmelanoma cancer cells. The radiation is powerful enough to kill the cancer but gentle enough that in most cases it leaves no scarring, and the treatment can be given in almost any doctor or dermatologist’s office. This new technology is being used to treat several skin cancer patients at Ahwatukee Skin and Laser in Ahwatukee Foothills.
“Skin cancers by nature are superficial,” said Dr. Richard Levy, director of radiation oncology at Ahwatukee Skin and Laser. “In order to give radiation treatment to a superficial area, the energy of the radiation beam you need to create is much smaller than you need to do treatments on the interior of the body. A small machine can create the low-energy beam and that has several advantages.”
Patients with common types of skin cancer like basal or squamous cell carcinoma can come into the office, lie down on a table and be treated by a machine set up to send radiation beams to the exact area that is affected. Treatments take an average of three minutes per site, and most patients need between eight and 12 treatments, Levy said. Most patients come in three times a week for treatments and are in the office for about a half-hour.
The most common side effect is a small red spot, resembling a sunburn, where the radiation hits the skin or possibly peeling at the site. Both go away with time.
The electronic brachytherapy treatment is unique because there is no cutting.
“This treatment is best for those who have lesions in a cosmetically sensitive location such as eyelids, nose, lips, ears, where some people prefer to have less of a surgical scar or divot hole of sorts,” Levy said. “No matter how good the surgeons are, some places are hard to cut out the tumor without leaving a little bit of a mark. Also on patients who are poor wound-healing patients, which is not rare in older patients or patients with diabetes or blood-thinning medications.”
David Werner, 75, is one of those patients on blood-thinning medication. He said he has tried several different techniques for getting rid of skin cancer over the years. He’s 80 percent through his treatment at Ahwatukee Skin and Laser for a spot on his nose and one on his shoulder and said this is the easiest treatment by far he’s ever been through.
“This is a piece of cake,” he said. “It’s so much easier, so much less blood. I’ve got sites all over where they had to cut skin cancer off. This is really nice. I’ve been through this enough to know what’s really nice. I recommend this.”
Ahwatukee Skin and Laser has been offering the treatment in its office since late February. Most dermatologists aren’t familiar with radiation treatment, so while the technology has been available for a few years, they are only beginning to use it regularly. Levy said he travels to several different dermatologists’ offices in the Southwest and offers consulting on electronic brachytherapy cases.
According to Levy, the success rate for the treatment over the long term is 95 to 98 percent, meaning the cancer is killed and does not come back. Serious side effects, which Levy said he has never seen, occur in about 1 percent of cases.
For more information on the treatment, contact Ahwatukee Skin and Laser at (480) 704-7546 or www.ahwatukeeskincare.com.
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