Dr Jerry Jaboin treats patients at
11155 Dunn Road, Suite 101E
St Louis, MO 63136
Phone: 314-653-5255 Fax: 314-653-4283
Siteman Cancer Center
Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place, Lower Level
St. Louis, MO 63110
Phone: 314-747-7236 Fax: 314 747 9557
Question: I have a skin cancer that was recently removed with a close margin. Now my doctors recommend electron beam therapy. What is this, and would I get it?
Answer: Electron beam therapy is the delivery of highly energetic electrons for localized treatment of a superficial cancer.
Like our more common external beam radiation treatments with high energy photons, an electron beam is produced using a clinical linear accelerator. However, because of the characteristics of the electrons, the beam produced by electron beam therapy does not penetrate very deeply into skin tissue. So it is able to limit radiation to the site of the tumor, while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues.
Even though skin cancer is the most common cancer, relatively few people die from this disease. The main reason for the good survival rates is that most of these cancers are easy to see, and therefore detected at an early stage.
Most skin cancers are treated with surgery. Microsurgery techniques involve careful processing of pathologic specimens during the surgery (Mohs excisions), and have been very effective in the treatment of most patients. However in some patients, the tumors are larger, deeper or are in locations too difficult to reach for the treatment team to get a comfortable negative margin of tissue without a very extensive and possibly disfiguring surgery.
In these cases, a person will often be referred to a radiation oncologist to receive electron beam therapy. This therapeutic option is ideal, because it is has limited penetration to the normal healthy tissue. The treatment duration varies based on the type of skin cancer, but individual treatments are short, painless (like taking an x-ray) and generally involve limited side effects. Most importantly the cure rates are very similar to those requiring advanced surgeries.
There have been recent advances in improving the homogeneity (evenness) and complexity of this type of treatment delivery, but be assured that this is a technique with a long and successful history, and is a standard approach in the treatment of skin cancer.