Laser treatment

A laser is a very thin, focused beam of light that heats the tissue it is directed at. Lasers can focus very accurately on tiny areas.

What is laser treatment?

Doctors can use laser beams to burn away abnormal or cancerous cells. This is called laser ablation and it can:

  • destroy small areas of precancerous cells
  • shrink or destroy tumours
  • relieve some cancer symptoms such as bleeding or blockage

Surgeons can also use lasers instead of scalpels during surgery. The lasers can cut through body tissue very precisely. An advantage of using a laser is that it seals off the blood vessels as it cuts so there is very little bleeding.

Doctors may use laser therapy on its own. But they may also combine it with other treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.

Why you might have it

Laser is a  treatment for cancer that is at a very early stage and close to the surface of the body. You might have it for a number of cancers including:

  • cervical cancer
  • penile cancer
  • vaginal cancer
  • vulval cancer
  • melanoma of the eye

It is also a treatment for some types of advanced cancers that are on the lining of internal organs such as the food pipe (oesophagus) or the windpipe (trachea).

You might have laser surgery to treat the early stages of non small cell lung cancer.

For basal cell skin cancer you might have laser treatment combined with a light sensitive drug. This is called photodynamic therapy.

Where you go to have laser treatment

You have laser therapy in hospital. For penile cancer or cervical, vaginal or vulval changes you usually have the laser therapy in the outpatient department. For internal cancers you may have treatment as an outpatient in the x-ray or endoscopy department.