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Mike Masterson: Arkansas Approves Zapping Cancers

August 2, 2016

Posted: August 2, 2016 at 5:45 a.m.

Editor’s note: The original version of the column was published March 9, 2014.

There the thing still was, frowning from the mirror. That crusty red spot on the very tip of my nose wasn’t going away despite weeks of salves. It appeared to be steadily enlarging with each passing month. There was no pain and the annoying pest clearly wasn’t a pimple, not at age 67.

Even my family doctor had commented in recent months, saying: “What’s that still festering on your nose? Looks like you might have a cancer growing.”

That was enough to shift me backwards in the chair. There went all my comfy denial. We’ve all heard the horror stories of melanoma being a possible death sentence since it can spread to vital internal organs. And most of us tend to imagine the worst.

As it would turn out, mine was a basal cell carcinoma. These scourges often develop from overexposure to sunlight. Although this form doesn’t metastasize like melanoma, it will grow and relentlessly dig ever deeper in the tissues around and beneath it, which, in many cases, involve one’s embarrassingly conspicuous nose.

The diagnosis until now usually has meant an expensive and radical remedy through reconstructive Mohs micrographic surgery to cut it out. The resulting void is then covered with transplanted skin flaps that hopefully heal and regrow without noticeable disfigurement.

Thankfully, I was about to find out about game-changing technology. It would mean no invasive surgery, pain or inconvenience, not even a Band-Aid, along with the overwhelming odds of a complete cure within weeks.

As it turned out, a GodNod led me during a visit to Santa Fe to Dr. David Wright. Turned out, he was the only dermatologist in 2014 New Mexico with a portable SRT-100 machine. What were the odds? The acronym stands for superficial radiotherapy, equivalent in radiation to a low-dose shallow X-ray.

A cure meant I’d spend time twice each week over six weeks in the doctor’s office beneath the compact machine manufactured by Sensus Healthcare of Boca Raton, Florida. The smallish device targets bursts of energy precisely onto the basal cells. A second cancer was discovered growing on my back. No worries. Both cancers could be treated during each visit.

The radiotherapy treatment penetrates no deeper than the surface layer of skin and soon causes developing cancer cells to safely slough away.

The SRT cure requires 13 treatments delivered two or three times weekly, the number required to erase every cancer cell in the process of reproducing.

My treatments went like this: “Lie on your back. You’ll feel a bit of pressure on your nose as I attach the proper setting to tightly focus the beam. I’m also laying a protective shield over your eyes. Hold very still as I step out and the doctor administers the treatment.”

Dr. Wright said the award-winning portable SRT technology was approved after a decade of research and testing. Today it boasts an impressive cure rate above 95 percent. “In a significant number of cases where sensitive areas such as the face are concerned, the treatment ensures there’s no disfigurement,” he said. Since the SRT was publicly marketed in 2011, 40,000 patients in 45 states have had skin cancers treated without a reported problem, said Joe Sardano, Sensus founder and CEO.

“While not necessarily for everyone, I believe this treatment represents the wave of the future in effectively treating non-melanoma skin cancers,” said Dr. Wright. “I’ve had the success and the results I expected.” I was but one of dozens of patients Wright said he’s treated with the SRT-100.

Writing in 110° magazine, Dr. Robert E. Beer, a Mohs-trained surgeon, said he’s been using SRT treatments on California patients and witnessed dramatic reductions of tumors by the fourth treatment. By the 11th and 12th treatments, he noted, the cancers had vanished. That was exactly what I experienced with Dr. Wright. The skin on my nose and back now have returned to smooth and normal.

Others nationwide, including all our surrounding states, quickly embraced this relatively cost-effective, humane technology at a time when skin cancers are reaching epidemic levels in states with plentiful sunshine.

And since this original column was published in 2014, Arkansas health-care regulators have joined with all but seven states in approving the sale and use of SRT technology. I call that very good and hopeful news for Arkansans diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancers.

Sardano told me last week not one Arkansas dermatologist or qualified physician has yet contacted Sensus about acquiring (or leasing) the cancer-zapping machine. All I know is if Mike (the imaginary dermatologist) had a practice where an SRT-100 treatment was an alternative to far more expensive and demanding reconstructive surgery on a patient’s face, I couldn’t acquire one fast enough–for their sakes.


Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at [email protected].

Editorial on 08/02/2016

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