Queensland skin cancer patients will be the first in Australia be treated with a new machine for delivering radiation, which is less invasive and leaves less scarring than surgery.
The Esteya electronic brachytherapy machine will be used to treat non-melanoma skin cancers at Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane’s south.
It is the first machine of its kind in Australia and one of only 11 in the world.
Radiation oncologist Professor Michael Poulsen said the machine used low energy X-rays to target the cancerous site.
“[It] is a very safe, effective, non-invasive treatment for non-melanomatous skin cancer,” Professor Poulsen said.
“Most times the patient will be on the bed for only a few minutes each day so it’s a very convenient treatment.
“It doesn’t involve any local anaesthetic.
“The most common schedule we would use is the patients would come here two-to-three times a week for two-to-three weeks.”
Professor Poulsen said the treatment could not be used on bigger, deeper, or more advanced skin cancers, but it would be an alternative to surgery for some lesions.
“With the Esteya machine, it’s very superficial so the deeper tissues are relatively protected so that results in a better cosmetic outcome for the patients and less side effects,” he said.
“The reality is two-in-three of all of us living in Queensland will probably get a skin cancer of non-melanomatous type in our lifetime so it is very common.”
Professor Poulsen said the machine can treat up to 40 patients per day, and patients may have to pay a couple of hundred dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
More than 350,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are treated in Queensland every year.
Machine offers patients another choice in treatment
Gold Coast woman Susan Leigh-Smith was the first patient to be treated with the machine, and said the procedure was very quick.
She has a basel cell carcinoma on her nose.
“They need to focus on the spot so that takes a little bit of time to set up as it did this morning — probably 10 minutes I suppose before the final procedure,” she said.
“And then two-and-a half minutes and I’m out of here.”
Ms Leigh-Smith wanted to avoid surgery as she is on blood thinning medication for another medical condition.
Professor Poulsen said that was a consideration for many other patients too.
“In some cases it may be preferable to continue with surgery and go off the blood thinners but for many patients who are having multiple excisions it’s inconvenient, and there’s a risk involved when they come off their blood thinners,” he said.
“It’s all about choice. Queenslanders have another choice in how their skin cancers will be treated.”