Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy “PDT” uses a pure red light to treat the affected skin. The process is a simple yet very successful method of treating localised skin cancers and lesions that could become cancerous if left untreated.

Rates of skin cancer are rising faster than any other cancer; Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the commonest of all cancers (36% of the total). The incidence of these cancers has been increasing significantly since records began at 5% per year.

The treatment is very straightforward and consists of initially applying a topical cream to the lesion. The lesion is then covered with an occlusive dressing for 3-4 hours before going under the light.

PDT has been used successfully to treat:

  • Non-melanoma skin cancers
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
  • Actinic Keratosis (AK)
  • Bowen’s disease
  • How does it work?

    PDT is a technique that uses a non-toxic light sensitive chemical which when activated by a certain wavelength (usually a red light) results in the destruction of the abnormal cells including non-melanoma skin cancers with a cure rate of over 90%.

  • How long does a PDT procedure take?

    It takes several hours to complete. A topical cream containing the photosensitiser is applied to the affected area and covered with a dressing.  You will be asked to return a few hours later for the procedure. This will allow the photosensitiser to be absorbed into the skin. The area will be cleaned and the cream will be wiped off before the light therapy begins.  A bright light (usually red) is then shone onto the treatment area for approximately 10 to 45 minutes (the treatment time will be determined by your doctor or nurse depending on the light source). Post treatment, a dressing will be applied for a minimum of 2 days, to prevent light exposure.

  • Is it painful?

    It is unfortunately a painful but necessary treatment.  Medication may be prescribed for pain.

  • What can I expect immediately after the procedure?

    Discomfort and itching may last for a few days after the procedure. The treated area is usually inflamed and may even ooze a little. Occasionally blistering and ulceration occur.  Should the area become red and swollen, contact your doctor as the area may have developed an infection.

  • Is there anything I should do to the treated area post the procedure?

    Avoid getting the treated area wet until it is fully healed. Do not rub or scratch the scab. Cool packs may be used to sooth the area. Use a protective sun block.

  • Are there any long term side effects of PDT?

    • Hyper-pigmentation (darkening of the skin)
    • Scarring