The Departments of Radiation Oncology work together with dermatologists to provide patients with the most comprehensive multidisciplinary management of skin cancer available. The most current and effective treatment approaches are provided in ultramodern settings where patient privacy and comfort are foremost.
There are two main types of radiation treatments for skin cancer, external beam and brachytherapy, that can be used to treat skin cancer based on the needs of the patient. A special type of external beam radiation called electron beam radiation is delivered using a linear accelerator and is used to treat skin cancers. Brachytherapy, uses a radioactive source placed near the cancerous tissue to deliver a therapeutic dose of radiation.
Electron beam therapy is offered for localized basal or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin or melanoma. Patients receive therapy in once-a-day 15 minute sessions for 5 days a week over the course of 2 to 6 weeks depending on the needs of the patient. There is little or no discomfort during the actual treatment sessions. For irregular shaped skin cancers of the head and neck, the radiation oncologist will work with specialists on the dental team to create a uniquely shaped device which allows for the optimal utilization of the electron beam properties.
NewYork-Presbyterian offers total skin electron therapy (TSET), a form of radiation therapy, for extensive cutaneous lesions such as Kaposi's sarcoma, cutaneous T cell lymphoma or mycoses fungoides. This procedure administers a uniform dose of electron beam therapy to the skin of a patient's entire body over a course of treatment and can take up to 9 weeks. This procedure is offered at only a few other centers in the United States because of the rigorous professional and technical expertise required to perform it.
Large skin cancers or cancers in locations with an irregular 3-D geometry, may be a challenge to treat. NewYork-Presbyterian is one of a limited number of hospitals that offers a specialized high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy option for this circumstance. At our center, highly trained medical physicists construct a special mold that conforms to the shape of the affected area on each patient's body. This mold is then later used to guide a highly radioactive source under computer control, to precisely treat the affected area. Treatments are typically given twice a week for 4-5 weeks.