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Skin cancer treatment that's less invasive

July 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Over the last 30 years, more and more people have been diagnosed with skin cancer. In fact, the latest figures show it has skyrocketed over 70 percent. Some types of treatment can be painful or leave scars, but there's a different and less invasive option available.

Daily ocean swims are invigorating for 80-year-old Tom Girven, but sun exposure has taken its toll on his nose. Five years ago, Girven underwent surgery to get rid of skin cancer on the right side of his nose.

Now with his new diagnosis, he's undergoing Superficial Radiotherapy Treatment, or SRT, because he didn't want to miss a day in the water.

"The procedure is so great for me for convenience, so I can do my swimming and everything else. So it's great," Girven said.

The low dose radiation therapy for non-melanoma skin cancers has been used for decades in hospital settings. Now the Skin Cancer and Reconstructive Surgery Center in Newport Beach is one of the few private doctors' offices to offer it.

"It is a great alternative for patients who may have fear of surgery or who simply cannot tolerate an operation to treat skin cancer," said Dr. Simon Madorsky, a facial plastic surgeon.

Other treatments, like the Mohs procedure, require a single surgical visit, plus about a week or two of healing. SRT requires many more visits with less down time.

"The procedure is done daily for about two to three weeks, and each procedure lasts anywhere between five and 15 minutes," said Madorsky.

This particular device can penetrate the skin up to five millimeters but it's still not recommended for very deep cancer. And in young patients, its use is controversial.

"Simply because Superficial Radiotherapy is something that can only be done once in a region," said Madorsky.

So treating with radiation should be reserved in the event new cancers show up later in life. Potential side effects include ulceration and unsightly scars. Most insurance companies cover SRT.After three weeks of therapy, Girven is pleased.

"It was everything that I needed. I didn't lose my time swimming. So it's worked out very, very well," Girven said.