Radiation used to treat skin cancer

Patients can avoid surgery for some skin cancers

AVENTURA, Fla. - Pamela Stewart, 60, is used to trips to the dermatologist. She was diagnosed with skin cancer when she was 17.

"My face is a chalkboard of different areas that have been affected throughout the years," she said. "It's kind of painful."

Bruce Weiner has a similar history, but when doctors found skin cancer on his nose, he underwent radiation treatment instead of surgery.

"It was quick, it was painless, it was multiple treatments, but it was over quickly and was great," he said.

"The beauty of radiation therapy is that it is totally painless, no wound, just some peeling and redness," said Dr. Mark Nestor with Skin and Cancer Associates.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy electron beams to kill cancer cells. Nestor said it's more precise today and doctors have a better understanding of how many treatments are needed and for how long.

To reduce side effects, doctors administer treatment about 15 times over three weeks. Patients can expect a 98 percent cure rate.

"There are some areas that area ideal for radiation therapy, such as the lower leg or scalp," said Nestor. "These are areas where healing is much more difficult."

Stewart, who has had 30 different skin cancers removed, is giving radiation therapy a try.

"This is non-invasive," said Stewart. "It beats having them do a major cut right into your face."

Radiation therapy is not an option for patients with melanoma.

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