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Melanoma Monday© and radiation therapy for skin cancer

Melanoma Monday© and radiation therapy for skin cancer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, devoted to raising awareness of the most common cancer in the U.S. The first Monday of the month is Melanoma Monday©, dedicated to raising awareness of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

Melanoma casts a long shadow. In the United States alone, over 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, with a higher incidence among men than women. Early detection offers the best chance for successful treatment, and initiatives like Melanoma Monday help by raising awareness and encouraging regular skin checks.” But for those already diagnosed with melanoma, the road to recovery can involve a variety of treatment options, including surgery, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.

This Melanoma Monday, we’ll explore the expanding role radiation therapy plays in the fight against this aggressive cancer.

“Radiation is a proven effective treatment for managing melanoma across many stages and situations. Even in the last couple of years, there are new techniques and therapy combinations that make radiation an essential part of care for many melanoma patients.”
Dr. Hunter Gits, MRO Radiation Oncologist

Radiation therapy: a proven, effective tool

While surgery is often the primary treatment for melanoma, particularly for early-stage tumors, radiation therapy plays a crucial role in certain cases.

  • Definitive therapy: Radiation might be an option to treat early–stage melanomas, if surgery cannot be performed.
  • Adjuvant therapy: Following surgical removal of the melanoma, radiation therapy might be used if there is a high risk that the melanoma might come back, to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
  • Palliative therapy: For advanced-stage melanoma that has spread to other organs, radiation therapy can help alleviate symptoms like pain and bleeding caused by tumors. Radiation might be used to treat melanoma that has come back after surgery, either in the skin or lymph nodes, or to help treat the spread of the disease. If disease has spread to the Brain, Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) could be a focal and highly precise treatment option.

Advanced technology targets treatment

Radiation technology is now more precise and effective than ever for treating melanoma. Advanced technology like Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can be targeted within millimeters, reducing side effects and improving outcomes.

IMRT utilizes computer-controlled technology to shape the radiation beam, allowing for a higher dose to be delivered directly to the tumor and minimizing exposure to healthy tissue.

SBRT delivers a very high dose of radiation in precisely targeted sessions. It’s particularly beneficial for treating small tumors in the lung or spine.

HyperArc™: A new dimension in melanoma treatment

HyperArc technology is one of the latest advancements in radiation therapy for melanoma. This is a specific type of SBRT designed for treating tumors in the head, including when melanoma metastasizes to the brain.

HyperArc is unique in several ways:

  • Efficiency: HyperArc delivers precise radiation beams from various angles around the patient, allowing for a shorter treatment time compared to traditional SRS techniques.
  • Accuracy: The system utilizes advanced planning tools and image guidance to ensure the radiation dose is delivered with pinpoint accuracy, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Streamlined workflow: HyperArc simplifies treatment planning and delivery for clinicians, potentially reducing treatment time and improving patient care.

Combining forces: radiation and immunotherapy

The landscape of melanoma treatment is constantly evolving, and immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, has emerged as a powerful tool. Recent research suggests that when radiation and immunotherapy are used together, the immune response to fight the cancer cells is increased.

What to expect when considering radiation therapy

If radiation therapy is recommended as part of your melanoma treatment plan, your MRO care team will design a plan specifically for you, based on the stage and location of your melanoma and your overall health. This typically involves a series of outpatient treatments, scheduled Monday through Friday.

Understanding the side effects

As with any medical treatment, radiation therapy can cause side effects. These vary depending on the area being treated and the radiation dose. Common side effects for skin cancer include:

  • Skin irritation and redness
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss in the treated area

These side effects are usually temporary and manageable with medication or supportive care. Your MRO team will discuss preventive measures as well as help to manage symptoms as they arise.

Talk to your doctor about MRO

If you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma, talk to your doctor about MRO and the role of radiation therapy. MRO can help you get the care you need close to home and get back to living your life.