Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a medical treatment that uses a photosensitizing molecule, usually a drug, and a light source to activate the drug. Certain types of skin cancer and precancerous lesions can be treated this way. PDT is not good for use on more advanced skin cancers like basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Acne can also be treated with this procedure. This procedure is performed in an outpatient setting.
At Dermatology Associates – with locations in Norwood, Foxboro and Franklin – we understand the importance of skin care and treatment. We use Photodynamic Light Therapy to treat certain types of precancerous skin lesions or Actinic keratosis — a common kind of crusty, precancerous lesion caused by sun damage. To find out if PDT is right for you, contact Dermatology Associates today.
There are three steps involved in this therapy. First, the patient takes a light-sensitizing drug in the form of a liquid, cream, or intravenous solution. Sometimes, a photosensitizing molecule that is already in the body can be activated. Then, there is an incubation period that can take from minutes to days. The tissue to be treated is then exposed to a particular wavelength of light that activates the drug. This treatment is not available for deep tumors on the skin. It is only designed for surface issues.
PDT works by damaging the target cells and tissues. This happens by activating oxygen molecules that will damage cells nearby. As a result of the normal skin barrier not being there at the place where the cancer is, the light can affect the area. After a PDT treatment, when there has been time to heal the area, that area is looked at again by the doctor to see if more treatments are needed.
When a doctor freezes a growth with liquid nitrogen, only visible areas can be treated. PDT allows you to penetrate deeper to destroy the cancer.
The best candidates for PDT may be people with fair skin. People with dark skin that becomes brown or discolored with light or laser treatments may not be good candidates. This is also the case if you are very sensitive to light and burn very easily. This can sometimes be a result of certain medications.
PDT does not usually leave scars. For three to ten days after the treatment, there will typically be some redness and irritation. Some people get some skin discoloration that may last for a while but is not permanent. People with darker skin may have more discoloration.
Most people do not get any complications from PDT. However, there may be some skin irritation and some people have issues with topical anesthetics. All in all, PDT is a minor and safe procedure that can be used effectively on some kinds of cancerous growths, acne, and some assorted cancers around the body.