You find a spot on your skin that is causing suspicion. It might be a scab that’s been there for too long, an ingrown hair, or a sunspot you’re just not sure about. So, you go in to see your dermatologist, as you should with anything remotely concerning on your skin. Your dermatologist will take a look at the spot and determine if it’s something that could be concerning, and will likely decide to take a biopsy of the area. If the results show that you have basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, the doctor will ask you to come in for a consultation to discuss your treatment options. One of the most sought-after types of treatment is superficial radiation treatment (SRT). SRT is a non-surgical skin cancer treatment with a 95% cure rate that requires no downtime.
The next step for SRT will be a simulation appointment so you will know what to expect throughout the rest of the treatment process. Ensuring you’re going to be comfortable with this method is the primary purpose. The doctor and clinical staff find what position is the most calming for you. A lead shield goes over the treatment area and a lead vest goes over your body the same way a dental apron would. These lead shields and vests are there to protect. And, they’re only to show you how they feel during the initial appointment.
Next, circles are drawn on your skin in order to show you what parts of the body are going to be within the field of radiation. Your doctor will then explain the time it will take to complete the SRT. You will have to ensure that you can get the treatment done 2-5 (although our treatment protocols only provide 2-3 treatments per week) times a week in short sessions. Most of the time, the sessions are only about 30 seconds long. If a patient has more than one area of skin cancer, more time will have to be allotted for additional procedures.
Another part of your initial consultation is developing your prescription. With this prescription, the doctor will calculate how many days are going to need to use it. And, what your dosage of radiation will be each day.
Moving into the actual SRT sessions you will come in, sit or lie down, the lead shield is placed over your body, and then the radiation applicator is placed over the tumor. The therapist conducting your treatment leaves the room, but they can still see you through a type of surveillance system. You hear a beep and the process of destroying the tumor cells begins. You are never abandoned or alone. Your treatments are always being observed by a medical professional. During the treatment process, you will be able to see the progress of the treatment via ultrasound (with the SRT-Vision).
After about five or six sessions, you may begin to see redness around the area being treated. The redness is a normal reaction. At this time, adjustments may be made to guarantee the rounds of radiation are maximizing their effort to eliminate the tumor cells. The redness will likely remain for the rest of the treatment, but should not be cause for concern.
After treatments are complete, your dermatologist will typically ask to see you for a follow-up visit every six months. These appointments are necessary to see if any new tumors are developing. If these follow up exams remain positive for a certain period of time, your physician may decrease your appointments to an annual exam.
Have any other questions on what you can expect during Superficial Radiation Treatment or need to find a physician in your area that utilizes SRT? Click here to find a physician that offers this non-invasive skin cancer treatment option.
**Originally published on December 21, 2018. Updated on March 6, 2020.