Radiation for Skin Cancers

An excellent alternative to surgery in hard-to-treat areas.

Out of necessity, Bennie Sands tends to be rather tight-lipped about the work he did at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. He’s less reserved about how he got the many skin cancers that erupted on his body after retiring and moving to Florida.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

As he heals, Bennie keeps his head covered with a ball cap.

“I came by the skin cancers, I was told, from sun exposure in my younger years, and the cancers are just coming out now,” he discloses. “When I was a youngster, I always tried to have a suntan for the girls, but all that did was do bad things for my skin.
“I was seeing a dermatologist, but then I heard about Blue Ocean Dermatology, and I was attracted to the information about their office and staff. I thought I would give them a call. When I first got there, I met with Jason, but Alina did most of my treatments.”
Bennie initially met with Jason L. Welch, MSN, NP-C, a certified nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology at Blue Ocean Dermatology in Port Orange. He was then assigned to Alina Collins, ARNP. Also at the practice are Nitra H. Welch, MSN, NP-C, who also specializes in dermatology, and Lawrence G. Blasik, Jr., MD, a physician who is board certified in both dermatology and internal medicine.
While treating Bennie for various skin cancers elsewhere on his body, Alina discovered several suspicious spots on his scalp. These spots concerned her, so she decided to examine them further.
“I performed six biopsies on the lesions to check for skin cancer, and they all came back as squamous cell carcinomas,” notes Alina. “I spoke to him about doing superficial radiation therapy instead of surgery because he would need six surgeries, and each time he risked complications.”
“The cancers on my scalp were more difficult to treat than the other cancers because the damage was on the top of my head,” states Bennie. “I just finished thirteen sessions of radiation on my head. That was the way we decided to approach treatment.”

Surgery Alternative

Bennie has a history of squamous cell carcinomas on his scalp. In the past, they were treated using Mohs surgery. Unfortunately, he had problems with the surgical wounds reopening because of the tautness of the skin on the scalp.
“Often, patients who have Mohs surgery on the scalp require a skin flap or skin graft over the wound for it to heal properly,” explains Alina. “To do that, the surgeon takes a piece of skin from another area and transplants it over the wound. That is a complicated surgery, however, and it takes a long time to heal.
“Superficial radiation is an excellent alternative to Mohs surgery. It is especially beneficial for those areas that are difficult to treat with surgery, such as the scalp, nose, feet and ankles. With radiation, there is no need for skin grafting and there’s no scarring.
“The success rate for Mohs surgery is ninety-five to ninety-nine percent. Radiation’s success rate is about ninety-five percent, so it’s comparable.”

“I live in Ormond Beach, and I drive to Port Orange to go to Blue Ocean Dermatology because the staff is so good. I think they’re outstanding!” – Bennie

Superficial radiation only affects the skin; it doesn’t get absorbed by the rest of the body or affect healthy organs and tissues. The radiation penetrates 5 mm into the skin, where it disrupts and kills cancer cells while preserving good tissue. Only small amounts of radiation are used in each treatment, so multiple treatment sessions are required.
“Generally, patients undergo thirteen sessions, and at each session they’re exposed to the radiation for approximately thirty seconds,” describes Alina. “Patients don’t feel anything during the radiation. They may develop some redness and peeling, and may scab afterward, but that heals on its own with no scarring.”
“I went to Blue Ocean for treatments three times a week,” relates Bennie. “First, they put a lead protector apron on me, then they gave me the radiation on the top of my head. I was in and out in ten minutes. I didn’t feel a thing. It didn’t burn or ache, and I didn’t have any side effects.”

Promising Prognosis

Bennie is currently in the recovery stage following superficial radiation therapy to treat multiple skin cancers on his scalp.
“I’m in the healing process, and as part of that, the top of my head is very scabby, which Alina says is normal,” he reports. “That’s why I tend to wear a ball cap. Alina told me it would be a couple of weeks before the scabs dry up and fall off. Then my head will be nice and clean and clear of cancer. That’s the expectation.”
“I’ll see Bennie in about six weeks,” adds Alina. “By that time, his scalp should be completely healed. It should be smooth skin with no scabs or sores. If there is anything left in the area that was radiated after six weeks, I’ll do another biopsy to spot check for cancer. But if his head is completely healed over, I’ll know he’s clear.”
Bennie says he has no qualms about recommending the superficial radiation therapy and Blue Ocean Dermatology.
“The staff at Blue Ocean are very professional,” he states. “They know what they’re doing, and they made the process very simple for me. I absolutely recommend them. I live in Ormond Beach, and I drive to Port Orange to go to Blue Ocean Dermatology because the staff is so good. I think they’re outstanding!”

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    • Blue Ocean Dermatology

      Blue Ocean Dermatology provides outstanding medical and aesthetic dermatology to people of all ages. All services are performed with integrity and honesty, and with high regard to humane concerns.... Read More

    • Lawrence G. Blasik, Jr., MD

      Lawrence G. Blasik, Jr., MD, earned his undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN. He was awarded his medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. Dr. Blasik is board certified in dermat... Read More

    • Nitra H. Welch, MSN, NP-C

      Nitra H. Welch, MSN, NP-C, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Troy State University in Troy, AL. She was an ICU nurse for eight years. She earned her Master of Science degree in Nursing and her family nurse practi... Read More

    • Jason L. Welch, MSN, NP-C

      Jason L. Welch, MSN, NP-C, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Florida State University in Tallahassee.  He was an ICU nurse for seven years. He earned his Master of Science degree in Nursing and family nurse pract... Read More

    • Alina Collins, ARNP

      Alina Collins, ARNP, received her Bachelor’s degree from Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio and her Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Prior to earning her Master’s degree, she worked as a registere... Read More