Electron Beam Radiation for Keloids

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Content Contributor: Allyson Distel, MPH
Last Reviewed: May 22, 2024

Electron radiation can be given to prevent keloids from coming back after they have been surgically removed. Radiation should start as soon after the surgery as possible, the following day is best.

What are keloids?

Keloids are noncancerous, raised, thick scars. They are not very common but are more likely to occur on darker skin. Keloid scars are a group of tissues that form over a wound forming smooth, hard growths. They can show up right away or up to 3 months after an injury to the skin. Keloids can continue to grow slowly for years. They may bother you and can cause pain, discomfort, and itching. They can also cause you to be self-conscious because of how they look.

What causes keloids?

Keloids are caused by wounds or injury to the skin such as:

  • Surgery.
  • Minor burns.
  • Cuts.
  • Piercings.
  • Chicken Pox.
  • Acne.
  • Insect bites.

Where do keloids occur?

Keloids can occur anywhere on the body, but are often seen on the:

  • Ears (piercings).
  • Abdomen (surgery scars such as C-section).
  • Cheeks (shaving).
  • Shoulders, chest, neck, or back.

How are keloids typically treated?

Keloids can be hard to treat. Sometimes after they are treated, they will return. It is common to use one or more treatments. Treatments include:

  • Corticosteroid shots.
  • Freezing the scar.
  • Putting silicone sheets or gel on the scar.
  • Laser therapy.
  • Pressure treatment.
  • Surgery.
  • Radiation therapy (either with or without surgery).

If radiation therapy is going to be part of your treatment you will first be scheduled for a simulation appointment.

What can I expect during the simulation appointment?

During the simulation appointment, your treatment position(s) and the treatment area(s) will be decided. This appointment will take 1-2 hours depending on the number of areas that are being treated.

You can expect to:

  • Lay on a hard table in one or more positions for a long time either on your stomach or your back.
  • Wear a hospital gown so that your clothes do not get in the way of treatment planning.
  • Remove any jewelry, bandages, monitors, or pumps that will be in or near the treatment area(s).

What can I expect during the treatments?

When you return for your treatment, you will be placed in the same position(s) you were in for your simulation appointment. If any immobilization devices (tools that help you stay in the same position for your radiation treatments) are made during the simulation appointment, they will be used for your treatment as well. The radiation therapists will position you correctly for your treatment and leave the room to deliver your treatment. During treatment, you can breathe normally. The therapists will be able to hear and see you during the whole treatment.

What are the side effects?

Some of the most common side effects are:

  • Skin irritation: Your skin can become red, irritated, dry, and darker in color. It may look or feel like a sunburn. This begins toward the end of treatment and often gets better a few weeks after treatment is done. Your skin may stay redder, darker, and drier than it was before treatment. Do not use perfumed lotions or soaps or band-aids. Try to avoid shaving, scratching your skin, and going out in the sun. Be sure to always use sunscreen and seek shade when you are outdoors. Wearing soft or loose-fitting clothing may be more comfortable.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is feeling very tired or exhausted. This is very common and tends to begin toward the end of treatment. Fatigue often gets better slowly over the weeks and months after treatment.
  • Delayed wound healing: Wound healing could take longer than normal after radiation treatment. It depends on the amount of radiation that was given.
  • Edema (swelling): Edema is the buildup of fluid within the body tissues and causes swelling or stiffness in the hands, legs/feet, and other joints.

There are ways to treat many of these side effects, including medications and therapy. Talk with your radiation care team about any questions or concerns you might have.

Lee, S. Y., & Park, J. (2015). Postoperative electron beam radiotherapy for keloids: treatment outcome and factors associated with occurrence and recurrence. Annals of dermatology, 27(1), 53–58. https://doi.org/10.5021/ad.2015.27.1.53

Related Blog Posts

December 12, 2023

Holiday Lights Are My Favorite Thing

by Courtney Misher, MPH, BSRT(T)

April 19, 2023

Happy Occupational Therapy Month

by OncoLink Team

June 30, 2022

Five Questions With…Amber.

by OncoLink Team