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New skin cancer treatment comes to the valley

Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:59:18 AM CST   Updated On: Oct 04 2013 06:26:14 PM CDT

Cecilia Ardella is on her lunch break, getting treatment for skin cancer.

"You don't feel anything, the only thing I hear is the machine," Ardella said.

A doctor diagnosed her with cancer on her cheek and it's not her first time.

"I've had another one on my forehead, and it left a scar," Ardella said.  

A scar that was the result of Mohs surgery, the most common treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers. But, now there's another option.

"This is a no downtime, painless treatment that will leave no scars on the patient's face or body, and that will completely eradicate the lesion in most cases," said Dr. Mark Sofonio, a board-certified plastic surgeon at the Skin Cancer Institute in Rancho Mirage.   

Cecilia is one of the first patients in the valley to get the treatment.  It uses highly-concentrated radiation that penetrates no more than half a centimeter of skin.

"This is the same thing you would get if you took a chest X-ray.  It's just more of it and more powerful and it's pin-pointed and directed," Dr. Sofonio said.

Dr. Sofonio encountered many patients post-surgery wanting reconstruction for their scars.  

"I've always wondered, can we get a better cosmetic result and still get rid of the skin cancer?  And the answer is yes, we can," Dr. Sofonio said.

The procedure takes between 30 and 45 seconds and the patient doesn't feel any pain. 

"You just hear the motor running, there's no feeling whatsoever," Ardella said.

More importantly, it's 100 percent covered by insurance and Medicare.  And, Dr. Sofonio expects the Affordable Health Care Law to cover it as well.

"This is less expensive for the government to have a treatment using this modality than it is to actually surgically cut it out through Mohs," Dr. Sofonio said.

But despite its benefits, the procedure will not completely eliminate the need for surgery.

"This is not going to replace Mohs at all.  This is going to augment or basically be another option for a patient," Dr. Sofonio said.