How do skin cancers start?
Life-long exposure to the sun is considered the primary risk factor for the development of skin cancers. A genetic pre-disposition to skin cancer development may exist in some families, and fair skin and northern European descent are considered general risk factors.
It is important not to neglect skin spots that appear irregular in shape, grow in size, ulcerate or bleed. You should always check with your doctor if you are concerned about changes in your skin. If your doctor is unsure about a spot or skin marking, they can refer you to a Dermatologist or a Radiation Oncologist for further assessment.
To establish a skin cancer diagnosis, your doctor will perform a biopsy of the suspicious skin lesion, and send it to a pathologist for microscopic evaluation.
There are three common types of skin cancers –
- Basal cell carcinoma: the most common form of skin cancer in Australia, which begins in the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). Radiotherapy is commonly used to treat BCC's.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: the second most common type of skin cancer, which also begins in the epidermis. Radiotherapy for SCC's is more commonly delivered as an adjunct to surgery, and to lymph glands nearby.
- Melanoma: the most serious skin cancer, it begins in skin cells called melanocytes that produce skin colour (melanin). Radiotherapy is rarely used to treat primary melanomas.
How is Radiation therapy used to treat skin cancer?
Surgery has traditionally been considered the mainstay of treatment for skin cancers, but primary radiotherapy is an equally effective treatment option, particularly for patients for whom surgery may be more problematic (the elderly, patients with multiple other medical issues, patients on blood thinning tablets, etc), or for patients who refuse surgery. Often skin cancers occur on areas of the body, such as the face and neck, where surgery may be quite disfiguring, and radiotherapy can result in a more acceptable cosmetic outcome. Radiotherapy is particularly useful for patients with widespread areas of sun-damaged skin, where there is often a combination of pre-cancerous and cancerous skin changes. Radiotherapy is preferable to surgery for treating larger areas of skin in such circumstances.
Radiation therapy is sometimes used in addition to surgery, to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, and is sometimes used to treat lymph nodes close to the primary tumour.
Please download the GenesisCare Victoria skin cancer treatment referral form here.
Skin cancer success stories
Here are some before and after photos of our patients that have all had radiation therapy to treat their skin cancers.
Patient #1: Pre radiation therapy
Patient #1: Post radiation therapy
Patient #2: Pre radiation therapy
Patient #2: 3 months post radiation therapy
Patient #3: Pre radiation therapy
Patient #3: 2 weeks post radiation therapy