Radiation therapy for skin cancer
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses radiation such as x-rays or electron beams to damage or kill cancer cells. It is used for BCC or SCC in areas that are difficult to treat with surgery, such as the face. Sometimes it is also used after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back or spreading.
How you have it
You will lie on a table while the radiation therapy machine is positioned around you. This can take 10–30 minutes, but the treatment itself will take only a few minutes. The number of treatments you have depends on the type of skin cancer, where it is and how big it is. Radiation therapy is usually given five times a week for several weeks.
What to expect after
Skin in the treatment area may become red and sore 2–3 weeks after treatment starts. This redness and soreness may last for a few weeks after treatment has finished.
For more on this, see Radiation Therapy.
Video: What is radiation therapy?
Prof Diona Damian, Dermatologist, The University of Sydney at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and Associate, Melanoma Institute of Australia, NSW; Dr Annie Ho, Radiation Oncologist, Genesis Care, Macquarie University, St Vincent’s and Mater Hospitals, NSW; Rebecca Johnson, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Melanoma Institute of Australia, NSW; Shannon Jones, SunSmart Health Professionals Coordinator, Cancer Council Victoria; Liz King, Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Cancer Council NSW; Roslyn McCulloch, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Paige Preston, Policy Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Health and Wellbeing, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Michael Wagels, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
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