What Is PhotoDynamic Therapy?

Light and medicines are not harmful to the body, but they can damage cells when used together. This principle is applied in photodynamic therapy. This treatment uses light-activated drugs called photosensitising agents to kill cancer cells. Lasers or other sources like LEDs are the preferred light source. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) allows small areas of abnormal cell growth or tumours to be treated precisely. 

During photodynamic therapy, the photosensitive agent is either injected into the bloodstream or applied on the skin based on the part of the body being treated. Once the cancer cell has absorbed the drug, the light source is applied to the area to be treated. Apart from killing the cancer cells, photodynamic therapy may also destroy the blood vessel that feeds the tumour by stimulating the cells of the immune system to act against it.

The time between drug administration and applying light source is called the drug-to-light interval and can be anything between a few hours to a few days. This time depends upon the drug used.

Types of Cancers Treated With PhotoDynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy has the potential to destroy abnormal cells in the body. However, it is preferred to be used in areas of the body where the light source can reach easily, such as the skin, eyes, mouth, food pipe and lungs. Some cancers that can be treated using photodynamic therapy include:

  • Barrett’s oesophagus
  • Oesophageal cancer (cancer of the food pipe)
  • Mouth cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin cancer (basal and squamous cell carcinoma, Bowen’s disease)
  • Ocular melanoma (a type of eye cancer)

 

Photodynamic therapy for other types of cancers is still under clinical trials. Apart from cancers, other conditions where photodynamic therapy is used include:

  • Actinic keratoses
  • Macular degeneration

 

There have been some promising results on using photodynamic therapy for treating warts, acne and Paget’s disease.

Who Is A Candidate For PhotoDynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy has the potential to destroy abnormal cells in the body. However, it is preferred to be used in areas of the body where the light source can reach easily, such as the skin, eyes, mouth, food pipe and lungs. Some cancers that can be treated using photodynamic therapy include:

  • Barrett’s oesophagus
  • Oesophageal cancer (cancer of the food pipe)
  • Mouth cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin cancer (basal and squamous cell carcinoma, Bowen’s disease)
  • Ocular melanoma (a type of eye cancer)

 

Photodynamic therapy for other types of cancers is still under clinical trials. Apart from cancers, other conditions where photodynamic therapy is used include:

  • Actinic keratoses
  • Macular degeneration

 

There have been some promising results on using photodynamic therapy for treating warts, acne and Paget’s disease.

PhotoDynamic Therapy Procedure

The process to get photodynamic therapy includes two stages –

 

  • Drug administration

In the first phase of treatment, the light-sensitive drug is administered into the body either as a cream, injection or orally. You will be asked to return after a few hours or a few days, depending upon the type of drug given.

 

 

  • Light treatment

In this phase, you will need to visit the hospital or clinic for light treatment, which will involve light or a laser on the treatment area. This procedure can take upto 45 minutes. A local anaesthetic agent may be used to numb the site or help you relax during the procedure.

 

Your healthcare team will guide you about post-procedure care. You will need to visit your doctor for a follow-up appointment to enable them to evaluate your condition.

Benefits of Using PhotoDynamic Therapy In Cancer Treatment

Photodynamic therapy is used with conventional cancer treatment options like surgery and radiation therapy. It is an advanced treatment with some benefits like:

  • Precise and targeted therapy
  • Minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissues
  • It does not cause permanent scarring after the site heals
  • Minimally invasive procedure
  • Treatment can be repeated multiple times on the same site if required
  • Affordable

Side Effects of PhotoDynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy is a safe procedure but may cause side effects in some people. These include:

  • Burning or stinging sensation during the light treatment phase
  • Sensitivity to sunlight or bright lights for up to six weeks if a drug was injected
  • Swelling
  • Burn
  • Scarring
  • Cough
  • Difficulty or painful breathing
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Itching of the skin

 

Most side effects of photodynamic therapy are temporary and resolve once treatment is complete.

Contact Us

If you have been recommended to undergo photodynamic therapy for your cancer, speak to your doctor about any queries you may have. Feel free to seek a second opinion from another specialist. Contact us today!

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