PhotoDynamic Therapy (PDT)
What is Photodynamic Therapy?
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that uses a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light. When photosensitizers are exposed to a specific wavelength of light, they produce a form of oxygen that kills nearby cells.
Photodynamic Therapy is used to treat pre-cancers or actinic keratoses. These are crusty, scaly growth caused by damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The photosensitizing agent that presents the standard of care is Aminolevulinic Acid.
Is Photodynamic Therapy for Me?
What skin problems does photodynamic therapy or PDT address?
PDT is primarily used for the treatment of pre cancers. These pre cancers usually surface as Actinic Keratoses or AKs. There are different treatment options for removing AKs, but if there are numerous lesions and a concern of additional AKs forming, it may make sense to undergo PDT. It is important that your insurance coverage also be considered when deciding on this treatment plan. The photosensitizing agent or Levulan stick is costly and some insurances have strict criteria as to when they will cover these treatments. Your provider and our billing specialists can assist in determining whether this would be an appropriate therapy and whether insurance might cover the treatment.
What does the procedure entail?
The photosensitizing agent that we use is Aminolevulinic Acid. This product comes in the form of a stick and is marketed by Sun Pharma. The product is odorless and water soluble and does not create any sort of sensation when applied. The product is applied in the office by one of our trained medical assistants. The product must incubate for anywhere between one and two hours. We ask that you remain in the office during this time, as it begins to induce photo sensitivity in your skin. After the incubation period, you are brought into a room with a special light, as pictured above. You are typically radiated by the light anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes, based on your providers specification.
Once you are done, the Levulan is cleaned off of your skin and sunscreen is applied. You are counseled on wearing protective clothing, hats and sunscreen during for x days after the treatment. Post treatment you may experience sunburn like symptoms that can range from mild to severe. In most cases this is normal, but if you have specific concerns, please reach out to your provider.
A follow up visit is scheduled x days later to ensure that your reaction is normal and healing ok.
How many procedures do I need & how long does it last?
For best results, three treatments are recommended that are spaced one month apart. The results for the lesions that have been removed are permanent, but it is possible that new growths can occur depending on your personal history and environmental factors. PDT is preventative, however, and can avoid concerning cancers later in life.