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
Skin cancers such as SCCs, solid BCCs, invasive BCCs or Melanomas cannot be treated with laser therapy.
Read more about basal cell cancers
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
No. 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.
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
Lasers 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.
Laser 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.
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
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-
Some treatments such as lip resurfacing partially covered under Medicare, however Fraxel Laser is not covered under Medicare- Health insurance.
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