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The Benefit of Levulan PhotoDynamic Therapy

When it comes to preventing and treating skin cancer, new technology is helping save lives. One such form of technology is photodynamic therapy. Wondering what the big deal is? Here’s what you need to know about photodynamic therapy.


What to Know About PhotoDynamic Therapy


What Is Photodynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a form of skin cancer treatment that utilizes photosensitizing agents combined with light to eliminate cancerous cells. The photosensitizing agents only activate when a certain type of light is used. For this treatment, these photosensitizing agents are typically injected into the bloodstream. They’re absorbed by the cancer cells after a certain period of time, and then light is applied to the area that needs to be treated. Once activated by the light, the photosensitizing agents will react and form a specific oxygen molecule that can kill cancerous cells in the skin. The light used during this skin cancer treatment can come in the form of a laser or an LED. This treatment is an outpatient procedure, and though it can be effective on its own, it’s typically used in tandem with other cancer treatments such as Mohs surgery or radiation therapy.

What Are the Pros of Photodynamic Therapy?

Certain types of skin cancer respond very well to photodynamic therapy. There are also no long-term side effects when photodynamic therapy is used properly. And since the procedure is so short, there’s really not a lot of time taken out of your day to effectively treat skin cancer. Part of the reason this skin cancer treatment is so effective is how precise it is. Similar to Mohs, photodynamic therapy allows doctors to target specific areas and treat them without disturbing any other areas of the body. In addition, this form of cancer treatment is typically less expensive than something like surgery or chemotherapy would be.

What Are the Limitations of Photodynamic Therapy?

Like many other cancer treatments, even PDT has its limits. First and foremost, it can only target areas where light can reach. That means it’s a great treatment for skin cancer, but not so much for cancers that have grown deeply into other organs or cancers that have spread too widely. In addition, the photosensitizing agents used for this treatment can leave patients sensitive to light for a short period of time, so it’s necessary to be very cautious when it comes to sun exposure post-treatment. While there aren’t too many limitations, it’s still important to understand the actual scope of what this treatment can do for you before investing.

What Types of Cancer Can Photodynamic Therapy Treat?

As we covered earlier, photodynamic therapy is an excellent treatment option for skin cancer. But since there are so many different types of skin cancer, it’s important to review which cancers can actually be treated with this method. Cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are both excellent candidates for PDT treatment. Something like melanoma may be treatable with this method, but that can get a little bit tricky. Since melanoma spreads quickly and can grow deep into the skin, it’s possible that PDT may not be able to treat the full extent without an additional procedure like Mohs.

If you’re worried about early signs of skin cancer and need to set up a skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.

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