PEORIA — UnityPoint Health is now offering a quicker treatment for common types of non-melanoma skin cancers.
Skin brachytherapy halves the required number of therapy sessions by using a stronger, more targeted form of radiation.
“With traditional treatment 20 to 30 treatments are standard. With brachytherapy we do eight to 10 treatments," said Dr. Candace Correa, a radiation oncologist at UnityPoint Health - Methodist.
With traditional treatment, which delivers a dose of radiation through a beam, patients are required to get treated every day. In contrast, Brachytherapy patients only need to come in two or three times a week.
“There is no anesthesia, no cutting,” said Correa. “Treatment lasts about five to 10 minutes.”
Brachytherapy utilizes a tiny, radioactive pellet inserted into a cup that is placed on top of the lesion. A filtered hole at the bottom of the cup allows the radiation to reach the lesion.
Brachytherapy is a good option for about 80 percent of patients diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers, said Correa. Because brachytherapy typically doesn’t scar, it works well for facial cancers, and is also a good option for the shin where the skin is very thin. After treatment the skin may get red and blister. As it heals the surrounding healthy skin will grow over the damaged skin.
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are typically found in the elderly. People with fair skin and light eyes or anyone who has ever had a sunburn are at increased risk. Early symptoms of skin cancer may look like a scratch or a wound that won’t heal. Anything suspicious should be checked by a doctor.
Since most of Correa’s patients are elderly, the quicker treatment is much appreciated.
“We were seeing 95-year-olds trying to come in every day in the winter. That’s why we started offering it,” she said. “They are more amenable to eight treatments every other day.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.