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What is Photodynamic Therapy?
Photodynamic therapy is a treatment method that uses a drug known as a photosensitizing agent and a special kind of light to treat skin cancer, acne and sun damage.
During photodynamic therapy the photosensitizing drug is exposed to a particular wavelength of light. This activates the photosensitizing agent and oxygen is produced during this process, which helps in eliminating the cancer cells. The distance that the light can travel in the body is determined by the wavelength. Therefore, different parts of the body are treated with particular wavelengths of lights during photodynamic therapy.
How to Prepare for Photodynamic Therapy?
How is Photodynamic Therapy Performed?
- The patient’s skin will be cleansed using an acetone scrub and mild chemical peel before the drug is applied, for better penetration.
- Aminolevulinic acid is applied on the skin surface that needs to be treated. This will be absorbed in 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the patient’s condition and the kind of light that is used.
- The patient may feel a burning discomfort during the photodynamic therapy. Fans may be used to provide some relief.
- A photosensitizing drug is injected into the patient’s bloodstream.
- The photosensitizing drug is taken in by the cells in the body and the cancer cells absorb the photosensitizing drug for a longer duration.
- After the injection is in the patient’s body for 24 to 72 hours, the photosensitizing drug leaves the normal cells, but stays in the cancer cells.
- Then light is directed on the tumor.
- The photosensitizing drug in the cancer cells absorbs the light and an active type of oxygen is formed that destroys the cancer cells.
- Photodynamic therapy helps in destroying the cancer cells in two other ways.
- Blood vessels in the tumor are damaged by the photosensitizing drug; therefore nutrients cannot reach the cancer cells.
- Photodynamic therapy may also stimulate the immune system to act against the cancer cells.
- For the treatment of lung or esophagus cancer, the light is directed through optic fibers using an endoscope.
Photodynamic therapy is mostly performed as an outpatient procedure.
This therapy may be repeated and used along with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- The skin is very sensitive to light for about 48 hours after the therapy.
- The patient may feel a burning discomfort for 24 hours after the therapy.
- Skin redness and peeling may occur for two to three days.
- The patient can resume regular indoor activities after the photodynamic therapy.
- The patient may be able to return to work after 48 hours.
- Redness and peeling of skin
- Eyes sensitivity to light
- Scarring of healthy tissue
- Skin swelling, scarring and pain
- Swallowing problem
- Abdominal pain
- Breathing difficulty
- Patients should stay away from direct sunlight and brightly lit indoors for about six weeks.
- Hats and scarves may be used to protect the skin from being exposed to light.
Learn more about Photodynamic Therapy