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Radiation Therapy

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Radiation therapy is often reserved for patients who are unable to tolerate surgery, who have a skin cancer that is difficult to remove, or who have recurrent skin cancers. It is also more common for older patients to receive radiation therapy for skin cancer as secondary cancers have a tendency to develop 10 -15 years after initial treatment.


There are different types of radiation therapy. Xrays, gamma rays, and charged particles (ie: photons) are types of radiation used in cancer treatment.¹ Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days or weeks of treatment before cancer cells start to die. Cancer cells continue dying for weeks after radiation therapy ends.




Radiation treatments are short, painless, and are usually given in many doses over several weeks. Radiation treatments are managed by a radiation oncologist in a hospital or radiation treatment center. A specific treatment plan will be designed for qualified patients based on the type and the location of the skin cancer. 


During the course of radiation treatment, the treated area may become red, dry, and tender like a sunburn. Patients will want to speak to their physician regarding best practices for skin maintenance during this time. A physician may recommend hypoallergenic skin care products and will advise on best practices for sun protection.


Most of the time, the cosmetic appearance after radiation is excellent, however, there are some instances where radiation treatment causes the skin to appear thinner and slightly scarred. Additionally, when extensive cancers are treated with radiation, the skin may contract, causing tightness and deformation of sensitive areas such as the nose, eyelids, and ears.

Patients should speak to their physicians about the expected outcome of their skin cancer treatment in advance. At SCARS Center we explore every potential option for skin cancer cure, applying the methods that work best for our patients and their lifestyles, while providing the most cosmetically sound outcomes possible. 


Superficial Radiotherapy: Long Term Follow-Up of Highly Selected Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas in Skin Cancer Patients
Superficial radiotherapy (SRT) treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer has been reported to yield variable cure rates. When patients are highly selected, adequate margins of treatment are chosen, and hypofractionation is avoided, cure rates of SRT can approach that of Mohs surgery. SCARS Center’s research article on the subject was recently published in Journal of Dermatology…
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Managing Lentigo Maligna Melanoma
HISTORY A 56-year-old man presented with complaint of lifelong history of darkening, growing left lesion of the left cheek. Biopsy on 09/24/21 showed melanoma in-situ. Excision with 5-6mm margins and closure of left cheek melanoma performed on 12/2/21 showed positive margins at 3-4 o’clock margins. Woods lamp evaluation and re-excision performed on 1/7/22. DISCUSSION Lentigo…
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Multiple Cutaneous Carcinomas in Organ Transplant Recipients
HISTORY  A 73-year-old kidney transplant recipient presented with multiple carcinomas including SCC, SCC in situ, and BCC of the face and scalp. DISCUSSION Organ transplant recipients can suffer from multiple cutaneous carcinomas. Some lesions can have a high risk of metastases, but most occur in multitudes in areas of extensive sun exposure. At SCARS Center,…
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Recurrent BCC of the External Ear After Radiation
HISTORY A 77-year-old man presents with 5-year history of infiltrative basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the left ear fossa triangularis and root of helix. The area was originally treated with four weeks of radiation in 2014, complicated by temporary ulceration and healing with adhesion. When the area developed crusting a couple of years later, the…
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Lethal Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Forearm in a Lung Transplant Recipient
HISTORY A 71-year-old lung transplant recipient presented with a recurrence of left dorsal forearm and wrist Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) after Mohs excision in 2016 performed elsewhere. The patient underwent Mohs excision with clear margins and additional deeper wide local resection with no carcinoma identified. Patient was referred for radiation oncology evaluation, but he was…
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Multiple Nasal Basal Cell Carcinomas
HISTORY 81-year-old man presents with 7-month history of two nasal tip and right nasal ala BCC’s. All three lesions were treated with 2 adjoining SRT fields. The course began 1-8-18 and completed by 1-26-18 after 15 treatments. DISCUSSION This patient represents an excellent candidate for radiation therapy. Electron beam radiation therapy can be used with…
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