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Laser Therapy for Skin Cancer in Marin & San Francisco, CA

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About Laser Therapy

Tracy Evans, MD, owner and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin, has extensive experience in performing laser therapy for patients who have been diagnosed with certain types of precancerous lesions. As a board-certified dermatologist and skin cancer specialist, Dr. Evans is dedicated to providing the most innovative and effective treatments for each type of skin cancer, as well as for precancers. Laser therapy, sometimes called laser surgery, is a noninvasive treatment primarily used to reduce or remove actinic keratoses (AKs). AK lesions, which are scaly or crusty spots that form on the skin due to overexposure to UV rays, are considered precancerous because they often develop into squamous cell carcinomas. At Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin, Dr. Evans performs laser therapy treatments with a Fraxel laser, which is commonly associated with aesthetic treatments, such as laser skin resurfacing. This laser is a safe and effective way to precisely target the affected skin without harming any surrounding tissue.

Dr. Tracy Evans and her team at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin also use innovative Fraxel laser technology for precancerous and scar reduction procedures. A safe and effective laser technology, Fraxel works to carefully penetrate the skin and help to restore collagen for a smoother facial appearance. Contact our San Francisco, CA facility to learn more about Fraxel laser technology and schedule your initial consultation. 

Ideal Candidates

Laser therapy is most effective for patients who have been diagnosed with actinic keratoses (AK). If you have AK lesions or are concerned that you may have developed AK lesions, we urge you to schedule an exam with Dr. Evans right away.

In some cases, laser therapy can be used as part of the treatment for basal cell carcinomas, but only if they are considered low-risk. During your consultation with Dr. Evans, she will thoroughly examine your areas of concern and will then be able to determine your diagnosis and treatment options. 

Procedure Technique

On the day of your appointment for laser therapy at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco & Marin, we will apply a topical anesthetic to your treatment area about one hour before we begin. As you wait for your numbing agent to take effect, you can relax in our comfortable treatment room. Dr. Evans will then gently and carefully administer the Fraxel laser to your AK lesion or lesions, which usually takes 15 – 30 minutes, depending on how much surface area needs to be covered. When your treatment is finished, we will apply a nutrient-rich serum and a cooling, hyaluronic mask to your skin to promote healing and hydration. We will then apply bandaging to the area to keep it clean and protected. There is no general anesthetic used for laser therapy so you will be able to safely drive yourself home after your procedure.

What to Expect

After your laser therapy procedure, we will talk you through any skin aftercare you need to follow. You will probably experience a few side effects, such as swelling, crusting, peeling, and some discomfort. These are all normal and will start to dissipate in 3 – 7 days with proper aftercare. Most patients find that they are fully healed within 2 – 3 weeks, though this differs for each person according to the size and placement of the laser treatment. Dr. Evans typically recommends that patients receiving laser therapy for precancerous lesions come back to Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco for 3 – 5 sessions spaced 5 – 6 weeks apart. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does laser therapy for actinic keratosis cost?
Like any medical or cosmetic procedure, your costs will depend on the number and size of your treatment area(s). Laser removal of precancerous actinic keratosis (AK) is usually considered a medical procedure so it is commonly covered by insurance. If you want to use your insurance to pay or partially pay for your procedure, be sure to bring your information to your appointment, and we will contact them to determine your benefits and out-of-pocket expense.

What is actinic keratosis?
Actinic keratosis, or AK, is a skin condition in which one or more small lesions appear on skin that has been overexposed to sunlight or UV rays from tanning beds. The lesions associated with AK are typically crusty or scaly and can be pink, red, tan, brown, or flesh-colored. Often, these lesions itch and can crack and bleed. AK is not skin cancer; however, it often becomes squamous cell carcinoma, which is a type of skin cancer.

Does laser therapy hurt?
During your procedure, your treatment area will have been thoroughly numbed with a topical cream for your maximum comfort. After the procedure, many patients do report feeling slight discomfort, but it is usually easily managed with OTC pain medication.

Do I have to prepare for laser therapy?
Before your laser therapy appointment, Dr. Evans may ask you to stop using any OTC products that can reduce blood clotting, such as ibuprofen or Vitamin E. Depending on the size and stage of your AK, Dr. Evans may prescribe a topical or oral retinoid to use for 1 – 2 weeks prior to treatment.  

Isn’t Fraxel a cosmetic laser?
While the Fraxel laser is commonly known as a cosmetic treatment, it is FDA approved for the treatment of actinic keratosis. When used to reduce or remove AK, Fraxel works in much the same way as it does for cosmetic purposes, like skin resurfacing. The laser is able to penetrate the skin to strategically destroy specific skin cells while also triggering collagen production and the growth of healthy new skin.

zap your actinic keratosis

Laser therapy is one of the most common treatments to remove or reduce actinic keratosis lesions from the skin. While AK lesions are not cancerous, they are known to generally develop into squamous cell carcinoma so seeking treatment as soon as you notice them is very important for the prevention of skin cancer. If you have AK or suspect that you do, we recommend that you schedule a skin exam at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology San Francisco right away so Dr. Evans can get started on this effective treatment.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.