AUSTIN (KXAN) — On a lake, with fishing rod in hand, Eugene Hester’s in his happy place.
“You catch fish every 20 to 30 percent of the time you go out, the rest of the time you’re going to work for it,” said Hester. “That’s what makes it worth it, that you worked for it.”
But during his 74 years of fishing and other outdoor activities, sunscreen was never an accessory. “My wife and I have both had skin cancer and I’m pretty confident it’s from the sunshine.”
Hester had two tumors on his face. For the first one, he underwent Mohs surgery. While effective, the surgery left him in pain and it took weeks to fully recover.
He wanted another option for the second tumor, and tried Superficial Radiation. It’s an FDA approved non-surgical treatment that destroys skin cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue. Patients come in for 8-10 treatments, which last about 15 minutes.
Dr. Dan Ladd, Medical Director at Tru-Skin Dermatology, has been using the technology for a few years now. “You don’t have any needles, there’s no pain, and you basically avoid the whole surgical downtime,” said Ladd.
While radiation therapies aren’t new, Dr. Ladd is now using a new device called the SRT-100 Vision, which has an ultrasound component. With the ultrasound, doctors can create a footprint to precisely target the cancer.
“We can see below the surface of the skin. How deep is this cancer? Is it smooth or is it irregular? What’s the shape of the skin cancer? What kind of energy are we going to need to treat it?” said Dr. Ladd.
For the first time, he says dermatologists can see below the surface without cutting the skin.
“In terms of keeping people active, keep them looking as good as they can look for the foreseeable future, it’s a good option,” said Dr. Ladd. “Superficial Radiation Therapy isn’t for every patient and I don’t think it will ever replace Mohs surgery, but it is nice to give patients an option that’s non-surgical.”
Dr. Ladd says Superficial Radiation is approved by medicaid and most major insurance companies. But it only treats basal and squamous cell cancers, not melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly skin cancer, and must be treated with surgery or chemotherapy.
Superficial Radiation has a 95 percent cure-rate and Mohs surgery has a 95-98 percent cure-rate.
The latest technologies are key to tackling skin cancer, which kills one person every hour in the United States. The cases of skin cancer in the U.S. are more than all other types of cancer combined, including lung, breast and prostate cancers.
For Hester, radiation therapy worked, leaving him cancer-free and back where he belongs.