Patients with non-melanoma skin cancer in Lincolnshire are benefitting from a new technique which is not only quicker and protects healthy tissue but is a first in the UK.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is the first trust in the UK to use this type of treatment.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. There are more than 100,000 new cases every year in the UK and it affects slightly more men than women.
Brachytherapy is delivered in a series of treatments and for most people they will receive 5-8 sessions. Treatment can be completed in a relatively short space of time, usually over the course of 2-4 weeks.
Treatment is given on an outpatient basis at Lincoln County Hospital for patients from across Lincolnshire meaning the patient will not need to stay overnight in hospital. Each treatment delivery usually lasts only a couple of minutes per sessions which is more convenient for a patient and they can return to their daily life.
Consultant Morfo Georgiou said: “Brachytherapy delivers the radiation with a high degree of precision. The tumour gets a high dose of radiation and because of such accurate positioning we can exactly determine the depth of radiation required to minimise any damage to healthy surrounding tissues.
“The treatment is great for patients because it leaves no scarring and it requires fewer sessions than other treatment options.”
The team at Lincoln can treat skin cancer with this applicator that is 2-3mm deep and 3cm wide.
Peter Walmsley, 75 from Fishtoft near Boston has just finished his course of brachytherapy treatment.
He said: “I didn’t feel any pain or sensation during the sessions but I have had a slight tickle on my nose. The staff have been absolutely marvellous and really looked after me. I feel absolutely fine and I’m really pleased with how quick each session has been – less than ten minutes.
“I didn’t mind having to travel to Lincoln for the treatment because it was so quick and I wasn’t having to come in every day.”
Patients are examined and have an ultrasound to determine the depth of the area needing treatment. The patient is positioned with the help of staff on a bed or chair and the treatment applicator is positioned on the area of skin requiring treatment. The applicators are designed to provide a close fit and to reduce radiation to nearby areas.
Following the course of treatment a follow-up appointment is scheduled for around 6 weeks later to check the treatment has gone well and to monitor progress. Follow-up visits are then scheduled every 3-6 months for the first year and once per year after this.
Non-melanoma skin cancers usually develop in the outermost layer of skin (epidermis) and are often named after the type of skin cell from which they develop.
Most skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light damaging the DNA in skin cells. The main source of UV light is sunlight.
Sunlight contains three types of UV light:
· ultraviolet A (UVA)
· ultraviolet B (UVB)
· ultraviolet C (UVC)
UVC is filtered out by the Earth’s atmosphere but UVA and UVB damage skin over time, making it more likely for skin cancers to develop. UVB is thought to be the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer. Artificial sources of light, such as sunlamps and tanning beds, also increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Repeated sunburn, either by the sun or artificial sources of light, will make your skin more vulnerable to non-melanoma skin cancer.
Research suggests that if you have two or more close relatives who have had non-melanoma skin cancer, your chances of developing the condition may be increased.
Certain factors are believed to increase your chances of developing all types of skin cancer, including:
· pale skin that does not tan easily
· red or blonde hair
· blue eyes
· older age
· a large number of moles
· a large number of freckles
· an area of skin previously damaged by burning or radiotherapy treatment
· a condition that suppresses your immune system, such as HIV
· medicines that suppress your immune system (immunosuppressants), commonly used after organ transplants
· exposure to certain chemicals, such as creosote and arsenic
· a previous diagnosis of skin cancer