Skin cancers are very common in Australia, largely as a result of our climate and our love of the sun, together with the fact that many of us have fair skin. There are three major types of skin cancer.
- Basal cell carcinoma: the most common form of skin cancer which begins in the outer layer of skin (epidermis).
- Squamous cell carcinoma: the second most common type of skin cancer which also begins in the epidermis.
- Melanoma: the most serious skin cancer, it begins in skin cells called melanocytes that produce skin colour (melanin).
An important step in the management of skin cancers and their associated risk is to detect them early. Detection can be achieved by performing regular self-checks and noting irregularities and changes in moles and skin pigmentations.
Surgery traditionally is the mainstay of treatment for skin cancers. However, radiation therapy can be recommended post-surgery to treat any microscopic disease that may be present, and also as the primary treatment mode on sites where it may be disfiguring to attempt a surgical removal, such as around the nose, eye, ear and mouth.
External Beam Radiation therapy for Skin Cancer
One advantage of radiation is its high chance of cure. Another is its ability to maintain the body's normal look, structure and function, avoiding major surgery and potential skin grafts.
Treatment for skin cancers typically takes place over a 3-6 week period. This depends on the site involved, whether or not you have had surgery to remove the skin cancer, and the type of cancer. These cancers are often treated with superficial forms of radiation that penetrate only a short distance below the surface avoiding underlying tissue that does not require treatment.
Brachytherapy for Skin Cancer
The physical nature of brachytherapy and its ability to provide radiation dose at proximity without irradiating far beyond the immediate tissue, makes it a great treatment option for certain skin cancer scenarios.
Surface moulds and specialised applicators are used to perform brachytherapy for skin cancers. The applicators come in a variety of standard sizes, whilst the surface moulds are customised for each patient and are dependent on the treatment area size, shape and location.