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More turning to alternate skin cancer treatment

Younger and younger people in our area are discovering they have sun damage on their skin. And there's a process that's helping treat many of these patients.

People suffering from pre-skin cancer and skin cancer are usually between 40 and 70 years old. But local doctors say they're now starting to see patients in their late 30s.

Doctor Elaine Cook with Advanced Skin Treatment Center in Amarillo says, "They're starting to see the effects of 20 years ago, which is how long it takes for the sun damage to show up."

And they're using Photodynamic Therapy, or PDT, to treat damaged skin. Medicine called Levulan Kerastick is placed on an area for 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on skin type and whether a pre-skin cancer, sun damaged area, or skin cancer is being treated.

A light is then put on the surface. Damaged cells are targeted, so doctors say they can effectively treat whole areas like the face, chest, and neck. Cook says, "It allows us to treat people who may have a lot of sun damage. And a lot of pre-cancerous spots all at one sitting. And it gets pretty crusty and red for three to five days. And then that settles down. But the cosmetic results are very good."

Advanced Skin Treatment Center says they're seeing about a 20% increase in people using PDT compared to last year. Doctor Cook says, "All of us have really had more sun damage than we think we've had. And so patients will find that they may think they have 10 spots. After the treatment, they see 50." People need to undergo one to three treatments depending on skin damage.

PDT was initially used for pre-skin cancer, but Cook says, "As people used it more and more, they found that patients also got cosmetic improvement from it. And from there, it moved into using it for treatment for certain kinds of skin cancers, usually basal cell carcinoma. More superficial kinds of skin cancers."

Doctor Cook says with PDT, the person has less discoloration compared to more common treatments like freezing. She says PDT costs around $900, but a lot of insurance companies cover it.

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10.

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