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Photodynamic Therapy or commonly know as PDT is a simple, non-invasive skin cancer treatment that has the added benefits of rejuvenating the skin cells in the treatment area of your skin while treating superficial types of skin cancers. Normal cells are not affected. 

What is the success rate of photodynamic therapy?   

Studies demonstrated a high response rate of 86.2% for treatment of intraepidermal squamous carcinoma (IEC) a form of superficial squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and over 90% clearance of Solar (Actinic) Keratosis.  Clearance rates for superficial BCC (sBCC) vary from 80% to 97% in studies, showing excellent clearance of these lesions.

Does photodynamic therapy work for skin cancer?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a cream that is applied to the treatment area, and kills cancer cells when a special light is applied on the treatment area. The mechanism involves the localisation of the applied chemical (ALA or Metvix) in diseased cells, which is then activated by a bright light source, causing the release of cytotoxic oxygen radicals that kills the abnormal cell.  It is used to treat certain types of cancer including sunspots, superficial basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in situ (Bowen's disease).

How long does it take to recover from photodynamic therapy?

It usually takes around 2 to 6 weeks for the area to heal completely, depending on which part of the body has been treated and how big the area is. It also depends on how strong the reaction was, as reactions vary depending on the amount of diseased skin being treated and individual variability in response.

What will my face look like after photodynamic therapy?

What does the skin look like after treatment? The treated area of the skin is usually quite red and may appear to be flaking or peeling, as it would after a mild sunburn. The redness, and perhaps some of the flaking, can last for several days to a week or even two weeks. (After that, skin returns to normal.) There is a variability in response to PDT, which results in a variability in recovery times as well.

Does Medicare pay for photodynamic therapy?

Coverage is extended for surgical or medical treatment methods, including but not limited to cryosurgery with liquid nitrogen, curettage, excision, and photodynamic therapy (PDT), but with restrictions on the use of PDT to certain patient groups.  Please discuss with your skin cancer doctor.

How long do you have to stay out of the sun after photodynamic therapy?

You will need to be completely out of the sun for 48 hours after treatment. Your skin will be sensitive to sunlight. That means no driving, walking, or being outside for even a few minutes at a time. Wear sunscreen SPF 30 or higher and avoid direct sun exposure while you are healing which can take up to a few weeks.  High potency sunscreens with zinc oxide can protect from visible light which is beneficial after PDT.  The chemicals used in PDT treatments can linger in your skin for several days and protection from visible light remains important during this time.

What are the long-term side effects of photodynamic therapy?

There are no known long-term side effects when administered properly. It's usually performed as an outpatient procedure over a short time. PDT can be repeated if necessary. It's less invasive and can give better cosmetic outcomes compared to other treatments like surgery.

How do I take care of my skin after photodynamic therapy?

If the treated area is on your face, wear a wide-brimmed hat. After 48 hours (2 days), continue to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on the treated area containing zinc oxide. If a scab forms on the treated area, don't remove, or pick at it. Apply a moisturizer such as Aquaphor®, Vaseline®, or Cetaphil.

Does PDT make you look younger?

PDT improves the entire facial area creating a more even colour, texture, and tone rather than just spot treating with traditional therapies. In addition, fine lines and wrinkles may be decreased. Your face will glow and be more radiant as your new healthy skin emerges. Results vary, with more widespread and more inflamed reactions often resulting in better cosmetic improvements in the long term.

Does PDT get rid of age spots?

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive treatment for superficial skin cancers (BCC and IEC), pre-cancer sunspots as well as acne and ageing skin. PDT is commonly performed in cosmetically sensitive parts of the body, as well as lower legs (which may heal poorly after the surgery).  Age spots are not specifically targeted by PDT, but when caught up in the reaction for diseased skin, they may be removed as well.

Does PDT remove brown spots?  

PDT does not target benign lesions such as age spots and freckles, but if there is enough of a reaction from the treatment of diseased skin, on occasion, these lesions may be removed as well. Other modalities such as laser or Intense Pulsed Light Photodynamic Therapy (IPL-PDT) with BLU-U can be used to treat brown spots, red capillaries, facial redness, rosacea, and acne. PDT also improves tone and texture while stimulating collagen production. 

How many times can you do photodynamic therapy?     

For actinic keratosis you usually have one treatment. For basal cell cancer or Bowen's disease you usually have two treatments 7-28 days apart. This is one cycle of treatment. Your doctor will tell you what's best for your situation.  PDT treatments can be repeated as needed as new lesions arise.

How effective is photodynamic therapy for basal cell carcinoma?    

Superficial BCC can be treated with excellent clearance of between 80% - 97% clearance in trials.  Nodular BCC can be treated with PDT, but clearance rates are less.

Where is photodynamic therapy most effective?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment used mainly for superficial types of skin cancer. PDT is effective in treating actinic keratoses and superficial basal cell carcinomas. It may also be used for treatment of small, thin, low-risk nodular basal cell carcinomas outside of the head and neck area. Superficial skin cancers and solar keratosis can be treated anywhere they occur, but the most common areas are the typically sun exposed areas of the face and neck, scalp, arms legs and shoulders.

Can I watch TV after photodynamic therapy?

You can watch TV as long as you are at least 5-8 feet away from the TV screen. Wear a thick layer of sunblock that has at least SPF 30 and contains Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide during the first 48-72 hours.

How long after PDT can I wear make-up?       

Day 3 to 7: For those who wear make-up, you may begin applying makeup once you are healed. Most patients will have completed peeling after 7 to 10 days. The area may be a healthy pink for 4 to 6 weeks.

Does photodynamic therapy hurt?        

Both Red and Blue light photodynamic therapy (PDT) are effective for actinic keratosis, but many patients experience slight pain or tingling during illumination, and occasionally mild stinging. A burning sensation may be experienced for a number of days after the treatment. 

Is photodynamic therapy permanent?     

Results from PDT can be permanent in the case of cure of superficial skin cancers.  Any field treatment for pre-malignant change tends to be semi-permanent, lasting for six months to several years, as new lesions can arise gradually in previously treated skin. Because photodynamic therapy is a relatively new treatment for acne and other benign skin conditions, any long-term effects are not known. Whether you need further treatment will be dependant on the years of sun exposure and ongoing sun protection. 

Can I wash my face after PDT therapy?  

Shower and wash the area immediately and as often as needed. Gently wash the area with a gentle cleanser and water two to three times a day and apply Aquaphor or Vaseline to the area. Avoidance of harsh or abrasive cleansers is advised. Picking or scrubbing the skin could cause severe irritation or scarring.

Can you use a computer after PDT?      

To prevent a severe sunburn-like reaction you must strictly avoid direct sunlight, indirect sunlight through windows and skylights, and even bright indoor lighting for the next 48 hours. Sitting in a dimly lit room away from windows is best. Computer screens and televisions are okay, as long as a safe distance is maintained of more than 1 metre, as bright light can activate the residual cream in the skin.

What are the benefits of photodynamic facial?      

In addition to protecting your health, this therapy can improve your appearance. Removing your precancerous growths may give your skin an even, attractive texture. In addition, this treatment may improve your sun damage, rosacea, pigmentation issues, and other aesthetic problems.

Does PDT build collagen?    

PDT increases cellular turnover and stimulates collagen production to minimise pores and reduce oil glands. Commonly used to treat pre-cancerous lesions, it also has a range of other applications to improve overall skin texture, tone, anti-aging, and acne.

What is the difference between red light and blue light photodynamic therapy?         

Blue and red light are different types of light. The difference between these lights are depth of penetration on the skin. Blue light is a kind of light only penetrates the skin about 0.5mm, while red light penetrates about 2 to 3mm. Depending on the physician's clinical evaluation, he or she may determine that 0.5mm is enough or feel that a deeper treatment with photodynamic therapy would be beneficial.

Is PDT a chemical peel?       

Exposure to a red or blue light then activates the medication. One of the effects of PDT is to shrink the oil glands, causing less oil production. Chemical peels clean out the pores but do not affect the oil glands. PDT is a much more effective treatment for acne than chemical peels.

Want to know more, arrange PDT Light Assessment with your doctor to see if this is a suitable skin cancer treatment for you.

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Melanoma Skin Cancer

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