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Using High Dose Brachytherapy to Treat Skin Cancer

High dose radiation (HDR) brachytherapy is effective in treating non-melanoma skin cancers. Such cancers include basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These types of non-melanoma cancers are highly curable but costly to treat since they disfigure patients. Treatments include external beam radiation therapy and surgical remover.

HDR Brachytherapy is a noninvasive and non-scaring treatment option for skin cancer. It works best on patients who have had primary treatment and left with disfiguring scars. HDR is also used on patients whose surgery failed to remove all the cancer.

It involves placing a radioactive seed in a cancer site using a plastic applicator. Since radiation is delivered directly to the location, it minimizes the amount of radiation that may affect the healthy skin and other surrounding tissues and reduces the risk of side effects.

High dose brachytherapy delivers high doses of radiation to the tumor directly. It does not affect the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Its sessions can take about 5-10 minutes. A patient will get 6-10 brachytherapy treatments for their skin cancer before doctors evaluate its effectiveness.

Patients experience short recovery times with very few or no side effects. After the procedure, they can go back to their normal activities.

In a study to evaluate its effectiveness on elderly patients with skin cancer:

  • It was found that high dose brachytherapy offers high rates of cure and cosmetic outcomes.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma patients experienced a cure rate of 96%, while those with basal cell carcinoma had 98%. In 90% of cases, the cosmetic outlook was excellent.
  • However, doctors noted that while brachytherapy can treat many types of cancers, it has failed to treat non-melanoma skin cancers that affect the face and neck.

Researchers are hoping that future studies can help to raise awareness about high dose rate brachytherapy as an integrative treatment option for external beam radiation and surgery. It has proven to be powerful in treating skin cancers in both younger and elderly patients with impressive results.

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