Lasers were once more ingrained in science fiction, but they are very much a part of our everyday reality with an endless array of applications. From screens to disc drives, lasers are just about everywhere, even in health and medical treatments for cancer.
“Laser” actually stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” It is a specific wavelength of light that is focused into a narrow beam. Depending on the intensity of the light, a laser can be powerful enough to cut steel or even shape diamonds.
So, how does laser therapy work? In medicine, lasers can be used in lieu of scalpels to create fine, delicate incisions that require extreme precision. At the same time, low level laser therapy is used to give pain relief to a patient experiencing chronic pain or soft tissue injuries. This includes conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back, and knee pain.
Laser therapy can be used for a wide variety of health applications. Read on to learn more about laser therapy as a cancer treatment and how it works.
What is Laser Therapy?
Laser cancer treatment uses a focused, high-intensity beam of light to potentially shrink or destroy cancer cells. What are the benefits of laser therapy? Unlike scalpels or other surgical procedures, lasers can be applied with great precision. A skilled doctor can excise a tumor or remove cancer cells without damaging or even touching surrounding healthy tissue.
Lasers can also relieve certain symptoms of cancer. For example, if a tumor is obstructing a patient’s windpipe or esophagus, a doctor can use a laser to shrink or destroy it. A laser can also remove polyps or tumors obstructing the colon or stomach. Lasers can also be used to cauterize wounds caused by tumors to stop the bleeding.
Lasers are generally used for superficial cancers where there is deep tissue damage, meaning cancers that appear on the surface of the skin or on top of the lining of organs. This includes basal skin cancers and early stage cervical, vaginal, penile, vulvar, and lung cancers. Lasers can still be used for tumors that appear in deep tissue, but the process may be more involved.
Although laser treatment for skin cancer is more common, Laser therapy can also be used on its own to remove smaller tumors and growths. However, it is more often combined with other forms of treatment, including other types of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
After surgery, the doctor may use a laser to seal off nerve endings to reduce pain or seal lymph vessels, which may help to reduce inflammation, accelerate the healing process, and prevent the spread of tumor cells.
How Laser Therapy is Administered
Laser therapy is usually administered using a long, thin tube called an endoscope. The endoscope is flexible and can be used to look at tissues and organs. The end of an endoscope can be fitted with optical fibers that emit the laser light, allowing the surgeon to precisely excise or destroy tumors.
LITT (laser-induced interstitial thermotherapy) is another type of laser therapy that has a similar effect as hyperthermia. Lasers are essentially applied to cancer cells, heating them to a high temperature. The heat kills or damages the cells, which causes the tumor to shrink.
Types of Lasers Used
Laser therapy generally uses three different types of lasers.
Carbon Dioxide Lasers
Carbon dioxide lasers remove thin layers of tissue from your skin or within the lining of certain organs while minimizing damaged tissue. These types of lasers are most commonly used for basal cell skin cancer, as well as vaginal, vulval, and cervical cancers.
Argon lasers are most commonly used to treat different types of skin cancer, but they may also be used in photodynamic therapy. With photodynamic therapy, cancer cells are injected with a special drug that makes them more sensitive to light. Exposing the cancer cells to an argon laser causes them to die.
These lasers are used in conjunction with hyperthermia. Laser-emitting fibers are placed within tumor cells. When activated, the laser damages the cancer cells, effectively shrinking the tumor. Nd:Yag lasers are most often used to treat uterus, colon, esophagus, and liver cancers.
Laser therapy is a thriving form of treatment for a variety of cancers. Consult your doctor to determine if laser therapy is the right treatment for you.
Written By: Dr. David Alvarez
Dr. David Alvarez is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Xochicalco and Certified by the American Heart Association (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support).
Dr. Alvarez has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista as an Assistant Medical Director at the Immunity Therapy Center for over 6 years. He provides daily on site patient care and participates on the medical board on research and development of patient treatment plans and programs. Dr. Alvarez is a knowledgeable and compassionate Doctor committed to helping patients get to where they want to be health wise through a more holistic and comprehensive approach.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.