Lecture Notes
Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer

Dr Glaucia Fylyk outlined the role of radiation therapy for patients with skin cancers at the October medical update.

Radiotherapy treatment can be used as definitive treatment (e.g. lentigo maligna), adjuvant or palliative. Treatments can involve up to 35 sessions or just a single session, depending on diagnosis and type of treatment. It is non-invasive and can treat lesions of any size or depth. There may be better cosmesis and functional outcome than surgery for some specific areas (e.g. close to eyes, nose or lips). However, the disadvantages include the logistics of multiple treatments, risks of second malignancy from the radiation (i.e. if young age patient), and not having histopathology on the margins. Patients must be able to stay still for the treatment and must be able to lie flat (although some smaller lesions can be done sitting up with the smaller ‘gun’). Claustrophobia may be a factor for some treatments.

Merkel cell carcinoma is one example of an uncommon but aggressive carcinoma that can spread via dermal lymphatics. In early stages it can be surgically resected, but due to the high rate of recurrence and high radiosensitivity it is often a good candidate for radiation therapy.

Ideally patients referred for radiotherapy will have a biopsy done prior to referral, to confirm the diagnosis and need for treatment.

You can find more information about radiation therapy on the Targeting Cancer website. There are also some plans to open up the local center and show us around at some point.

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