Laser therapy has become an increasingly important component of cancer treatment. It is effective on its own, and it can be combined with other treatments for even greater effect. While laser cancer treatment is not without its limitations, the benefits of laser therapy far outweigh its disadvantages. Learn more about laser therapy’s benefits below.
What is Laser Therapy?
“Laser” actually stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Simply put, it’s a type of high-intensity light that is focused into a narrow beam. Laser light has a specific wavelength, creating a powerful beam that can potentially cut steel or even diamonds (depending on the type of laser used).
However, how deep the incision is will depend on the different types of lasers used. For example, laser treatment for skin cancer uses multiple types, including CO2 or carbon dioxide laser commonly used in Class IV laser therapy. This can approximately cut 2mm, which is impossible to achieve when using a scalpel.
How does laser therapy work? Well, for cancer, a surgical laser is used to cut tumors and destroy cancer cells. Laser surgery is most often applied to superficial cancers, including:
- Basal cell skin cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Penile cancer
- Non-small cell lung cancer
Lasers can also be used for laser-induced interstitial thermotherapy (LITT), which is a form of hyperthermia therapy. These treatments broadly involve heating cancerous tissue to a high temperature. Cancer cells are unable to survive heat. Lasers can be used to heat cancer cells, which kills them and shrinks tumors.
Lasers may also be used for photodynamic therapy (PDT). This form of treatment starts with a type of drug known as a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent. This drug is absorbed by your body’s cells, but after a few days, it collects mostly in cancer cells. A laser light activates the drug, destroying cancer cells in the process.
The Benefits of Laser Therapy
So, what are the benefits of laser therapy? Laser therapy offers some unique benefits over other forms of treatment.
Lasers are naturally focused on an extremely narrow beam. That means that lasers are characteristically more precise and exact than scalpels and other standard surgical tools. The tissue near a laser incision or during LITT or PDT remains almost entirely unaffected. The laser can target a tumor without causing any damage to healthy deep tissue and organs.
As laser therapy is so precise and does not cause damage to healthy tissues, there is naturally less pain, bleeding, swelling, inflammation, and scarring. Recovery periods are much shorter, while the healing process is faster. The heat from lasers seals blood vessels, which also prevents the risk of bleeding and can help to sterilize parts of body tissue. This greatly reduces the risk of infection.
The actual surgical procedure for laser therapy is much shorter and faster than other forms of treatment. Laser treatment can be easily done on an outpatient basis, in a doctor’s office, with minimal anesthetic.
Laser therapy is generally minimally invasive or non-invasive. An endoscope can be easily inserted through a small incision.
Combined with Other Treatments
Laser therapy can be used on its own, but it is more often combined with other forms of treatment, including standard surgery, chemotherapy, physical therapy, and radiation therapy. This can increase the effectiveness of the treatment and help to destroy cancer cells more thoroughly.
Other Cancer-Related Applications
Along with its potential to directly treat cancer, laser therapy can also be used for other cancer-related applications. Lasers can be used to seal nerve endings following the surgery, which help provide pain relief and provide comfort to the patient.
Another cancer-related application is (LLLT) low level laser therapy or cold laser therapy. It is used to treat lymphedema, a breast cancer surgery side effect where there is swelling of the arms. Lasers are used to seal lymph vessels, which promote decreased inflammation and prevent the spread of tumor cells.
As laser technology advances, laser therapy is becoming easier to use and more accessible for doctors and patients alike. More research also suggests new applications for laser treatment, including for different types of cancer. Consult your doctor to learn more about laser therapy and its potential benefits.
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.