A woman with a worried expression looks as a laser beam points towards her face.

Contemplating Laser Resurfacing for Skin Cancer

I have had many, many skin cancers over the 27+ years since I was first diagnosed, and I have also had numerous actinic keratoses. Starting when I was early on in my skin cancer journey, and over the next twenty years, my plastic surgeon treated precancerous areas and some of the smaller skin cancer areas with a laser. The laser treatment took care of the skin cancers and precancerous areas, but it also left white circular scar areas, which have never faded.

Laser treatments were known to leave scars

A couple of years ago when I was consulting with a plastic surgeon for an infiltrating basal cell carcinoma that was under my nose, she noticed those white scars and asked if I’d previously had laser treatments. I told her that I had, from the plastic surgeon who treated me up until his retirement. She said one of the first things she did when she took over his practice five years earlier was to get rid of the laser because of the scars it left.

I'm still intrigued at times

It was because of all the scars I have from the laser treatments that any time I saw an article about laser treatment, I tended to not even read it. The last thing I want is more white circular scars. Why, then, when I see articles about laser resurfacing to help with skin cancers and precancerous areas, am I wanting to know more?

Laser treatments do seem efficient

I think there are several reasons, one of which is that I am thinking that laser treatments may have improved with time. Healthcare has advanced greatly in my lifetime, and I am hopeful that this includes laser treatments. And the more I think about it, laser resurfacing seems to make sense. If a skin cancer is contained to the top layer of the skin, or if dry patchy areas of actinic keratosis are sitting at the top of my skin, wouldn’t removing that top layer of skin and allowing new skin to grow take care of the problem?

The healing process doesn't sound too fun

I have seen more than a few dermatologists say that yes, it does. The Mayo Clinic even says that laser resurfacing can be used to treat sun damaged skin.1 But the more I read about it, the more undecided I become. The treatment sounds like it could take up to a month to heal, and Mayo Clinic indicates the skin could stay inflamed for several months. And after the treatment, the skin is itchy, raw, and swollen for the first week or two. I remember all too well the itchy, scabby areas during the healing process from having an extensive surgery to remove 23 skin cancers, and I remember feeling pretty miserable. The results though, according to the Mayo Clinic, could last for years, and I do like the sound of that.

I may be willing to try laser treatment again

I am a big fan of learning about potential new treatments for my skin cancer other than the typical freeze, biopsy, and surgery methods. There’s no doubt about it, those methods work and have served me well over the years. But if there’s something new that may also be an option, I want to learn about it and maybe consider it. So where am I on the laser resurfacing? I think the next time I see my dermatologist I will ask her what her opinion is on it, because I’m not yet sold on it. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing my sunscreen, taking good care of my skin, and hoping for no new skin cancers.

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