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Laser Surgery for Skin Cancer

Author: Dr Davin S. Lim, Laser Dermatologist

Lasers can be effective in the treatment of pre-cancerous areas, as well as treating sun-damage and very early skin cancer on the lips. Skin cancer doctors work in with Specialist Laser Dermatologists to perform this procedure. FRAXEL laser can be used to treat ‘sunspots’ or solar keratosis on the face, scalp, chest and neck areas. An ablative laser such as CO2 or Erbium laser can be used to treat superficial skin cancers on the lips and other areas.

Laser surgery can have an added benefit over other treatments due to their rejuvenating effects- in most cases, your skin will look younger, fresher and tighter after laser.

Not all skin cancers can be treated with laser- your skin cancer doctor will advise you what types of cancers can be amendable to laser surgery.

Important facts on laser surgery for skin cancer

  • Some forms of skin cancer such as superficial BCCs and IECs can be treated by laser surgery
  • FRAXEL laser is an excellent form of treatment for sun-damage, solar keratosis and sunspots
  • Sun-damage on the lips, known as actinic chelitis is best treated with laser
  • Lasers can also be used as a method of scar revision following skin cancer surgery
  • All laser surgery treatments are performed by Specialist Laser Dermatologist, your skin cancer doctor will refer you accordingly

What type of skin cancers can be treated with laser?

brisbane laser clinicOnly certain types of skin cancers and skin lesions can be treated with laser. Examples of skin lesions amendable to laser surgery include-

 

  • Superficial basal cell cancers, located on the face, body or limbs
  • Superficial SCCs known as Bowen’s disease
  • Sun-damage , sunspots or solar keratosis on the face, neck, or chest
  • Sun-damage on the lips, known as actinic chelitis, or leukoplakia.

Skin cancers such as SCCs, solid BCCs, invasive BCCs or Melanomas cannot be treated with laser therapy.

Read more about basal cell cancers

How effective is laser treatment for skin cancer and sun damage skin?

laser lip treatmentIf performed by a Specialist, laser therapy is very successful. The cure rate for the treatment of BCCs and IECs (Bowen’s disease) is over 95%.

 

Laser resurfacing of the lower lip for actinic chelitis (sun-damage lips), is extremely effective, removing between 80-95% of sun-damage with one treatment.

 

FRAXEL 1927 for sun spots and solar keratosis is also very successful. Most patients will require only one treatment, however if sun damage is heavy, two treatments will be needed. As a guide line between 60-80% of sun damage can be shifted with Fractional Laser.

Read more about Fraxel for sun spots

Can moles be treated by laser therapy – surgery?

laser mole removalNo. Laser surgery is not an option for removal of moles. My Skin Cancer Centre doctors will always submit moles for testing, and ‘blind treatment’ of moles is not recommended. The treatment of choice for changing or suspicious moles is surgery.

 

Laser therapy can be used to remove sun-damage, sunspots, or pre-cancerous solar keratosis. Laser can also remove unwanted skin pigmentation, freckles, and age warts.

 

You Skin Cancer doctor will guide you in regards to the safety of lasers.

What types of lasers do we use to treat skin cancer?

laser for sundamageOur doctors will work in with our team of Laser Dermatologists to choose a particular laser for your condition.

 

Superficial BCCs (Basal cell cancers), and thin SCCs as well as sundamage and age spots respond well to CO2 or Erbium laser. These types of lasers are termed ‘ablative’ and remove very precise layers of the skin- destroying the skin cancer cells, as well as rejuvenating the surrounding skin.

 

Areas of precancerous sun damage, sun spots and skin pigmentation can be effectively treated with a laser called FRAXEL 1927. This laser treats ‘fractions’ of the skin, producing areas called MTZ or microscopic treatment zones. This treatment has a downtime of only 5-7 days, compared to other methods of removing solar keratosis.

Read more about Fraxel laser for sunspots

What is the advantage of laser over other treatments for skin cancer?

laser skin cancer surgeryLasers are more precise tools than surgical scalpels, and in the right hands, do less damage to the surrounding tissue. For areas such as the lips, nose, and face, the use of lasers can result in minimal scarring. Not all skin cancers can be treated this way, and your skin cancer expert will advise you of what cancers respond best to laser therapy.

 

The other huge advantage of laser therapy is that of rejuvenation. After laser treatment your skin will look younger, fresher and cleaner. Laser removes unwanted skin pigmentation, age warts, spots and stimulates collagen formation. All this results in tighter younger skin. This is the best positive side effect of laser treatment.

What are the disadvantages of laser therapy for sun damage and skin cancer?

laser for skin cancerLaser can only be utilized to treat certain forms of skin cancers, including IECs or Bowen’s Disease, Basal cell cancers of the superficial type, and sun spots or solar keratosis. Other forms of skin cancers can not be treated with laser.

 

Surgeons must have specialised training before they can perform laser therapy, and hence patients are referred to Laser Dermatologists to perform this procedure.

 

Laser therapy is more expensive than surgery, or creams for sun-damage due to the cost of running a laser theatre, assistants, and laser machines.

Who performs laser surgery for skin cancer?

davin lim dermatologistLaser Specialist Dermatologists perform this type of work. Your skin cancer doctor will refer you toDr Davin Lim, Dr Shobhan Manoharan, Dr Scott Weber, or Dr Brad Jones to under take laser surgery.

 

Laser Dermatologist have an additional 4 years training in managing skin conditions, and additional training in the use of lasers for skin cancers.

 

 Read more about Westside Laser Dermatology

How much does laser treatment cost?

Laser surgery costing will depend on the type of skin cancers treated, the number of sessions and the location of the problem.

 

As a guide-

  • Laser to lower lip for sun damage- $600 out of pocket
  • Fraxel Fractional Laser – entire face $990; indication sunspots.
  • Fully ablative laser in theatre by Specialist Dermatologist- $3500 to 6,500

 

Some treatments such as lip resurfacing partially covered under Medicare, however Fraxel Laser is not covered under Medicare- Health insurance.

Is laser surgery covered by Medicare or Health insurance?

skin cancer medicareMedicare does provide some rebate for laser surgery for skin cancers and sun-damage, however an out of pocket cost will apply.

 

Examples include- treatment of basal cell cancer with laser, Medicare Rebate of approximately $170

 

Fraxel 1927 for sunspots are not covered by Medicare, and an out of pocket expense of $990 applies.

 

Private Health insurance does not cover laser surgery for sunspots unless conducted in Hospital