A laser, which stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, comprises a high-intensity light set to a specific wavelength. The light is focused into a narrow beam that can be powerful enough to cut through steel or even diamonds.
Laser therapy has become an important component of health and medicine. As laser beams can focus on relatively tiny areas, they can be extremely precise, even more so than a scalpel. This makes way for a wide range of medical applications, including treating skin cancer. Learn more about laser treatment for skin cancer below.
Lasers and Cancer
So, how does laser therapy work? There are two main ways lasers are used in cancer treatment. Lasers can shrink or destroy tumors and precancerous growths directly through laser-induced interstitial thermotherapy (LITT), which works similarly to hyperthermia. With LITT, a laser heats tumor cells to a higher temperature, effectively killing the cancer cells to shrink the tumor.
Alternatively, lasers can be used in photodynamic therapy. In this form of treatment, a doctor injects a drug known as a photosensitizing agent into the patient. This agent gathers in cancer cells. When exposed to laser light, the drug activates and destroys the cancer cells.
Lasers can also help to reduce certain side effects and symptoms of cancer. For example, surgeons may use cancer to seal nerve endings following surgery to reduce pain. Lasers may also be applied to lymph vessels to reduce swelling and prevent the spread of tumor cells. Lasers can also staunch bleeding from surgery or from tumors.
Treating Skin Cancer with Lasers
Laser cancer treatment is commonly used for superficial cancers, these are types of cancer that appear on the surface of the body or on the lining of internal organs. Tumors that are located deeper in tissues and organs can be harder to target or reach. This makes skin cancers an ideal target for laser treatment. There basically four main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma – You can find these cells in the lower epidermis, and about 80% of the different skin cancer develop through this type of cell.
- Merkel cell cancer – It is a highly aggressive and fast-growing cancer cell but also quite rare. It begins in the hormone-producing cells that are found underneath the skin and hair follicles.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – Did you know that the epidermis is made up of squamous cells. These are scale-like cells, and about 20% of skin cancer begins from this type of cell.
- Melanoma – Melanocytes are found between the epidermis and dermis, and melanoma starts in these kinds of cells.
Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma are non melanoma skin cancer, as well as actinic keratoses, a precancerous condition, are particularly suited for laser therapy. Melanoma types of cancer undergo a different treatment, like radiation therapy. However, laser treatment can still be used for more elderly patients with melanoma.
Although, it is important to remember that there are different types of lasers used for different kinds of treatments. For instance, CO2 or carbon dioxide laser is usually used in numerous skin cancer surgeries to remove precancerous or cancerous areas.
How is Laser Treatment Administered?
Laser therapy is generally administered using an endoscope, a thin, flexible tube that features a camera at the tip. This allows the doctor to look inside your body to identify abnormal tissues. The endoscope also features optical fibers, which are thin fibers that transmit light.
For skin cancers, the endoscope is inserted into the body via a small incision. Once the tumor has been located, the doctor can activate the optical fibers as a laser light to excise or otherwise destroy the tumor cells.
The Advantages of Laser Therapy
So, what are the benefits of laser therapy? The biggest advantage of lasers is their precision compared to scalpels and other traditional surgical implements. Lasers are extremely precise, which allows for more slight surgical procedures without damaging healthy tissue surrounding a tumor.
This results in less pain, bleeding, swelling, or scarring for the patient. The healing period is also much shorter, and patients have a reduced risk of infection following surgery. Laser therapy sessions also tend to be shorter than traditional procedures. Laser therapy can actually be performed on an outpatient basis, in a doctor’s office.
Laser treatment for skin cancer is an effective, viable method for reducing or eliminating tumor cells. If you believe laser therapy may be a good treatment for your skin cancer, consult your doctor to determine a treatment option that works for you.
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.