No Pain, Much Gain for Skin Cancer Patients

Electron-beam spray therapy offers better cosmetic outcomes without cutting.

Frank Perrott began working on his family’s farm in the western Pennsylvania hill country when he was about ten years old. He helped tend to chickens, hogs and cattle, plus corn and other crops.
“It was more of a chicken farm than anything else,” he recalls. “We sold eggs and meat, which we’d truck into the city.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Frank Perrott

In those days, Frank never gave sunscreen a thought. On bright sunny days he simply wore a hat, more to shade his eyes than to protect his skin. After moving to Florida 43 years ago, Frank continued to labor outdoors, mining sand on 60 acres in Hudson, operating heavy equipment and, for the past 18 years, helping to run his family’s Sunset Landing Marina in Port Richey.
Early on, though, sunscreen still wasn’t part of Frank’s daily routine. He was still just wearing a ball cap, but as it turns out, it wasn’t one that would ward off the kind of problems that can come from overexposure to the sun.
“The mistake I made, which I found out afterward from a dermatologist, was wearing a hat with mesh so air could go through it,” he concedes. “The problem was that it also allowed sunlight to get through it, too.’’
Frank suffered numerous sunburns over the years – some of them blistering – on his arms, head and legs. The sun damage led to squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common skin cancer.
“I have been going to the dermatologist over the past thirty years for different types of treatments,” including creams and invasive procedures, to “dig out the cancer” or burn off the growths with liquid nitrogen, he shares.
Frank estimates he’s had 20 to 25 outpatient surgeries to remove malignancies from his arms, shoulders, ears, face and scalp. The pain and resulting scarring were difficult to endure.
“I had one right in the middle of my forehead. We had three rounds of digging that day and didn’t get it all,” he remembers. “When I went back, they did some more, and then more. Finally, at the end of that day, they bandaged me up and said, Okay, we think we got it all. I tried to work after that. It wasn’t pretty because I had a hole in my head.”
During another procedure, Frank’s dermatologist cut his left ear nearly in half to remove cancerous tissue.
“In order to repair my ear, the doctor took skin from the area where my sideburns would be, down past my ear on that side, to the middle of my neck,” he relates.
Frank was recovering from knee surgery and was at his physical therapist’s office last spring when he learned about Florida Cancer Specialists. After further research, he began seeing Kapisthalam S. Kumar, MD, who ultimately referred Frank to colleague Gerald H. Sokol, MD, in Hudson.

No More Disfiguring Surgery

“Frank had so many skin cancers on his scalp that a surgical procedure would have been deforming, painful and aggressive,’’ Dr. Sokol recounts. “I knew he would be better served by an alternative treatment.’’

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Frank makes sure to protect his skin now while working outside.

He recommended Frank undergo electron-beam spray therapy, delivered through a linear accelerator. The specialized machine sends electron beams to superficially penetrate the skin’s outer layer at the exact spot of the cancer lesion without affecting the tissue below. The procedure takes less than five minutes per treatment.
Because no cutting or stitching is involved, electron-beam spray is painless and rarely causes infection or significant scarring, Dr. Sokol educates.
“The number of treatments, which can be anywhere from five to twenty, depends on the depth, magnitude and size of the field of the cancer,” reports Dr Sokol.
“If you’re treating somebody’s whole scalp, it may take twenty or twenty-five treatments to kill all the cancer. If it’s a small, single lesion, it could be done easily in ten or twelve treatments.”

An Excellent Prognosis

Frank confirms the therapy was “not painful at all. When you walk into the room where the radiation is delivered, you lie on a movable cot,” which is controlled electronically, and wear a mask to protect your eyes.
“While I’m having these treatments, I don’t go out in the sun as readily as I would in years past,” he adds. “But I still work outside, so I wear a hat and cover myself as much as I can elsewhere.”
After completing electron-beam spray therapy, Frank’s lesions have healed and his scalp is “as smooth as a baby’s behind,” he marvels.
Frank has recommended Dr. Sokol to several friends and has this advice for anyone considering such therapy: “Do it in a heartbeat.”
“Mr. Perrott’s prognosis is excellent because the cure rate with electron-beam spray is comparable to the cure of a surgical procedure,” Dr. Sokol emphasizes, “without infection, bleeding, pain and significant scarring.”

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