Skin cancer is the No. 1 type of cancer in the United States.
There are many types of skin cancer, the most common being basal cell carcinoma (80 percent), squamous cell carcinoma (16 percent) and malignant melanoma (4 percent). This is not a complete least as there are a number of other unusual types we see. There are many treatments available ranging from Moh’s micrographic surgery and frozen section margin control surgery to Curettage and Electrodessication (ED+C) to radiation therapy to a myriad of prescription topical creams (5-fluorouracil, Imiquimod).
Basal cell carcinoma is similar in most instances to having a “cavity of the skin” in that it destroys the local tissue it sits in, but the vast majority of the time does not spread. Squamous cell carcinoma behaves differently than BCC in that it usually presents a more rapidly growing tumor, can be sore/painful and depending on the location, patient and type of SCC, may spread (metastasize). BCC and SCC are most often located in areas of sun exposure and often have some presenting symptoms such as a non-healing, bleeding sore, a tender “volcano-like” bump that is rapid growing, etc. Malignant melanoma is a deadly skin cancer that is usually a painless dark spot, often in a non-sun exposed area such as the back or back of the legs. Early detection and surgical treatment are essential to having the highest survival rates with melanoma.
Treatments for skin cancer
All skin cancer treatments should be individualized for the patient with regards to cure rate, location, cosmesis, expectations, etc.
Surgical treatments are the most commonly employed and have very high cure rates. Many patients want other options and now we have the latest in nonsurgical treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancers (BCC and SCC) – the Sensus SRT-100. This is radiation therapy made exclusively to treat skin cancers. The beam is low dose and goes only into the superficial layers of the skin. Patients usually come in twice weekly for six weeks for treatments that last about one minute. There are no needles, no scalpels/cutting, no bleeding, no stitches and minimal scarring.
Patients most often encounter redness and a “raw” area at the treatment site during the treatment. At one month after completion of therapy with the Sensus SRT-100, most patients have a small pink area that remains where the cancer was which usually continues to fade over time. Cosmetically, the result is fantastic and success rates are on par with the various surgical techniques. The Sensus SRT-100 is not appropriate for all nonmelanoma skin cancers as we still refer certain skin cancers to either the plastic surgeon, the Moh’s surgeon or the radiation oncologist. Again, every patient is unique and there is no substitute for a discussion about the options for their specific skin cancer, its location, the scar potential and the success rate of the treatment.
Benefits of Sensus SRT-100 treatment include:
• No cutting
• No need to stop blood thinners
• No bleeding
• No stitches
• Minimal scarring
• Little to no pain
• As few as 12 treatments (usually twice weekly)
• Covered by insurance and Medicare
We encourage everyone to get a skin exam at least annually. Early detection is key to the highest success rate.
Dr. Frank Armstrong is a board certified dermatologist at Dermatology Specialists of West Florida, 5200 Seminole Blvd.