We all want to face the world looking our best. For 18-year-old aspiring actor Shane Knolton, the pressure to present a flawless face is especially intense.
That's why Knolton was distraught when keloids—red, raised areas of overgrown scar tissue—appeared on his earlobes shortly after he had his ears pierced. Normally, after a cut—whether by piercing, tattooing, or injury—skin repairs itself by forming scar tissue. In some people, often younger individuals with dark skin, scar tissue keeps growing long after it's needed—and forms keloids.
These growths can become serious, causing pain, disfigurement, or even infection. Knolton's parents recognized the problem and quickly took their son to specialists at Botsford Hospital.
Keys to keloid treatment
Raymond Hajjar, D.O., a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Botsford, removed Knolton's keloids. The surgery was success, but keloids are highly persistent. So Knolton still faced a chance that his would return. That's when Dr. Hajjar sent him to see James Fontanesi, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Botsford. Dr. Fontanesi treated Knolton with direct electron beam irradiation.
"The radiation destroys the cells that are overproducing scar tissue," Dr. Fontanesi says. "With just a few radiation treatments, we can lower the recurrence rate of keloids from 70 percent to the 10-15 percent range." That reduction rate is quite impressive, especially given how difficult keloids are to get rid of in the first place. Some patients try several different treatments before finding a solution that works. Plus, HDR has virtually no side effects and it's safe and painless. "I feel like I just walked in and walked out," says Knolton. "That's how easy my radiation therapy was."
Ready to face life
In the fall, Knolton began his theatrical education at Columbia College in Chicago. But he had learned some important lessons before he left home. "This experience had a definite impact on my life," he says. "I know I have a high risk for keloids, so I won't be getting tattoos or piercings in the future."