Benefits of Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer

Radiation therapy is a safe, effective, and non-invasive treatment option for non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal and squamous cell carcinoma.

Surgery is the most common treatment option for non-melanoma skin cancer, particularly for minor, early-stage cases. Since basal and squamous cell carcinomas tend to start small, are slow-growing, and frequently do not spread right away, surgery may offer the best treatment.

In many cases, however, radiation therapy may be used in place of or in combination with surgical options. Depending on a patient’s specific medical situation, overall health, age, and preferences, radiation therapy may be the best option available.

Who should consider radiation therapy for skin cancer? Click here to learn more.

What are the benefits of radiation therapy for skin cancer?

  • Radiation therapy does not cause scarring and typically results in little, if any, cosmetic damage.
  • Radiation therapy may be very effective as an adjuvant therapy in combination with other cancer treatment options, optimizing the effectiveness of both.
  • Radiation therapy may be used to target cancers in delicate areas, particularly near the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.
  • While slightly less curative than surgery head-to-head, radiation therapy has a very high rate of success.
  • Radiation therapy allows patients to continue on medications that might cause complications during surgery, such as blood thinners.
  • Treatments are short and painless.
  • Healing at the tumor site generally occurs in two to six weeks after the end of therapy and doesn’t leave significant scarring.
  • There is no risk of infection, a particularly important benefit for elderly patients and those with poor overall health or serious medical conditions.
  • Radiation therapy for skin cancer is generally approved by all major insurance companies, including Medicare.
  • Side effects are generally mild, and tend to go away quickly.
  • Radiation therapy avoids the extreme surgical defects that may result in very large tumors that are treated with surgery.
  • Radiation therapy may be the most effective option for high risk squamous cell and basal cell lesions that have
    • close positive margins
    • nerve invasion
    • high growth rate
    • the possibility of nodal involvement
  • Radiation may be used after surgery to improve the control rate of the cancer in high risk scenarios.
  • Anticipated use of radiation may allow a surgeon to forego extensive surgical grafts, flaps or reconstruction if the combined modality approach is known ahead of time.