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New Procedure Spares Skin Cancer Patients From Surgery

DENVER (CBS4) - There are 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma cancer each year -- 8500 people a day -- a number that includes Colorado's Attorney General.

Cynthia Coffman became among the first in the state to undergo a new state-of-the-art treatment that spares patients from surgery.

When Coffman noticed a skin lesion developing on her face, she got it checked out.

"To find it was actually skin cancer … It is definitely something that makes you sit up and think," she said.

The good news was that it was non-malignant. But the treatment seemed like bad news.

"I thought my only option would be to have a fairly big piece of skin taken out of my nose and have a scar," said Coffman.

Enter Doctor Kevin Schewe at Red Rocks Radiation Center. His facility in partnership with Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center and Sarah Cannon Research Institute is the only one in Colorado offering superficial radiotherapy for patients with non-melanoma skin cancer.

cynthia coffman skin cancer
Cynthia Coffman and Dr. Kevin Schewe (credit: CBS)

"What's unique about this is that the radiation treatment has been miniaturized. We can focus a tiny bit of radiation that is really just limited to skin, right on the problem. I call it the sniper rifle approach to cancer treatment," he said.

A special leaded shield is cut to protect areas around the cancer.

"Cancers don't always grow in perfect circles. They can be irregularly shaped, on edge of ear. We can cut out the Flexishield to fit exactly where the radiation needs to treat," said Dr. Schewe.

Coffman, who frequently makes tough legal decisions, said the decision between surgery or this was easy.

"I feel extremely fortunate it worked out so well for me," she said.

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