Disclaimer: Consult with a doctor before deciding on a treatment plan for cancer or any other disease.
Lasers are used in a variety of ways in the treatment of cancer. Most commonly, they’re used for surgery as an alternative to the scalpel. Unfortunately, however, lasers are not often used to their full capacity in treating cancer in hospitals and patients need to be aware of the potential risks associated with the use of lasers to treat different types of cancers.
In cancer treatment, lasers can be used in different ways. The conventional medical model makes use of lasers to surgically remove cancer cells and to “photosensitize” the cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation. In some alternative cancer treatment facilities, lasers can be used to sensitize cancer cells to curcumin or hypericin. These treatments offer benefits over traditional scalpel surgical techniques and the traditional application of chemo and radiation, but laser therapies are also being researched and used to kill cancer without surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Be sure that you fully understand what kind of laser therapy your doctor plans to use in your cancer treatment before agreeing to it.
The word “laser” is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers are powerful and precise which is what makes them useful in treating cancer. They can be used in place of a scalpel to cut very small areas that are less than the width of a fine thread to remove a very small area of cancer without damaging the surrounding tissues. Laser beams can be bent through tubes using fiber optics to make it easier to access hard-to-reach areas and doctors can use them in tandem with microscopes to make it easier for doctors to see the sites being treated. Further, doctors can use lasers to heat cancerous tumors and shrink them .
Types of Lasers
There are different types of lasers used in specific situations to accomplish different surgical goals. They can be used alone, in tandem with conventional cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation or as part of alternative cancer treatments. Lasers can be applied continuously to the treatment area or they can be used intermittently Below are the different types of lasers used during cancer surgery :
- Neodymium:Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet (Nd:YAG) Lasers
Nd:YAG lasers are used to access deeper tissue layers. The heat that they generate helps blood to clot quickly, which can lessen bleeding. For areas of the body that are less accessible, laser light can be carried through optical fibers .
- Laser-Induced Interstitial Thermotherapy (LITT)
LITT lasers are directed at body tissues near tumors. The heat increases the temperature of the tumor to shrink or damage it and ultimately destroy cancer cells . (See the Hyperthermia for more information on the use of heat to kill cancer cells).
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Lasers
CO2 lasers are used to remove a thin layer of tissue from the surface of the skin without damaging deeper layers. These layers are useful for treating skin cancers and pre-cancerous cells . Some studies have demonstrated that the use of CO2 lasers (as opposed to other surgical techniques) for breast cancer surgery may reduce the recurrence of cancerous tumors .
- Argon Lasers
Argon lasers are used to treat skin or eye problems that are just beneath the most superficial layers of the skin. Photodynamic therapy uses argon laser light to activate certain chemicals or substances in cancer cells .