By Jana Soeldner Danger
City & Shore Magazine
Sometimes searching for alternatives can make a big difference. When a skin cancer that started as a dry patch below her nose spread and made a hole above her lip, Kristin Walker was frightened. Her doctor at home in Pennsylvania told her she would need surgery to remove the tumor, then plastic surgery to repair the damage. “My whole upper lip was disfigured,” she says. “I knew I’d be scarred. My lips wouldn’t have had a regular shape anymore.”
Then, while visiting her daughter in Coconut Creek, she found an alternative. Dr. Jason Green, DO, a dermatologist in Deerfield Beach, told her he could treat the tumor with superficial radiotherapy (SRT), a noninvasive treatment for skin cancer without cutting, pain or scarring. He also offered a separate treatment, called photodynamic therapy, to keep precancerous lesions from progressing to become malignant.
Over a course of about eight weeks, Walker had 17 SRT treatments, with each one taking only about 30 seconds. She says she’s very pleased with the result. “It’s like nothing ever happened. I’m thrilled.”
SRT uses photon therapy, a form of radiation that can be targeted directly to the cancer and does not penetrate to healthy tissue beyond. The technique has been around for about a decade and is 95 percent effective, Dr. Green says. SRT can be used for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers, he adds, but not for melanomas, which are more likely to metastasize.
Most prevalent type of cancer
Skin cancers are the most prevalent type of cancer and most occur on the head and neck, areas where scars can be very visible and even disfiguring, Dr. Green says. SRT allows patients to avoid that. “It gives them an alternative to surgery,” he says.
The treatment can also be a choice for patients who are not good candidates for surgery, such as individuals on blood thinners or with poor circulation, as well as those who are prone to forming keloids, nodules of fibrous tissue that can happen to some people at the site of a scar.
Walker also had a precancerous spot on her nose. Dr. Green suggested treating it with photodynamic therapy, an alternative to freezing.
The method is simple and quick. The doctor applies a liquid light-sensitive medication to the patient’s skin an hour or two before the treatment, and then exposes the area for about 17 minutes to special light that reacts with the medicine and destroys the precancerous cells.