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What to Know About Radiation Therapy for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells by directing strong X-rays or other radiation at the site of the tumor. The radiation damages the cancer cells and stops them from growing and dividing. Radiation therapy is a local therapy, meaning that it affects the cancer cells only in the treated area. It is used most often if you are unable to have another treatment because of another medical condition, such as bleeding problems, or if the cancer is in an area that would be hard to remove with surgery. 

If you have radiation therapy, you will meet with a radiation oncologist. This doctor will estimate the size of your cancer. For example, the radiation oncologist may find that a growth such as a basal cell tumor may be larger under the surface of the skin than it appears to be on the surface. The radiation oncologist will then create a plan that details what kind of radiation therapy you will have and how long the therapy will last.

Potential side effects of radiation therapy for nonmelanoma skin cancer

Radiation therapy affects normal cells as well as cancer cells. Side effects of radiation depend on what part of the body is treated. You might have dry, red skin, or a rash. This irritation will go away after treatment is done. Your doctor can recommend ways to relieve these side effects.