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What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment for precancerous lesions such as actinic keratoses. This is indicated for patients with sun-damaged skin and a high prevalence of actinic keratoses. Often patients are treated frequently with liquid nitrogen cryotherapy causing stinging, burning, redness, and pain. Treatment with liquid nitrogen is quick and effective for patients with fewer precancerous lesions. For patients with extensive precancerous lesions, this process is not ideal.

PDT on the other hand, offers an alternative treatment for patients with many precancerous lesions and allows treatment of a larger body surface area in one session. In the past, PDT was described as uncomfortable or painful with significant downtime. At ReJUVA Dermatology & Vein Center here in Venice, FL, we have altered our treatment protocol based on the most recent studies to allow this process to be painless yet maintain high efficacy.

How Does PDT Skin Treatment Work?

On the PDT visit, a photosensitizer cream is applied to the affected skin such as the face, scalp, chest, forearms or legs. The synthetic precursor in the cream then preferentially accumulates in the dysplastic cells such as precancerous cells. The precursor then converts to Protoporphyrin IX through the heme pathway when exposed to blue or red light. This follows by formation of reactive oxygen species, which then leads to cell death of abnormal and precancerous cells.

skin cancer

Am I a Good Candidate?

If you have a history of precancerous lesions, rough scaly spots that come and go, and a history of any skin cancer then you are likely a good candidate for this procedure. During your examination, our providers will discuss this treatment and if you are the right candidate for this.

Which Areas Can Be Treated with Photodynamic Therapy?

We commonly treat any affected areas such as the face, scalp, chest, forearms, hands and legs with PDT.

What Are Other Skin Cancer Prevention Measures?

mole on hand

Sun protection and consistent sunscreen use are the primary preventive measures. We recommend that you use a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF and re-application every 2 hours. The use of tanning salons and beds should be avoided.

Topical chemotherapy creams such as Fluorouracil and Imiquimod creams have also been indicated for significant sun-damaged skin that carries precancerous lesions. However, due to significant reactions and downtime, these creams are much less popular among our patients than PDT.

Topical retinoids and oral Nicotinamide have also been shown to slightly decrease the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

What to Expect During Photodynamic Therapy for Skin Cancer Prevention?

When you arrive for your PDT session, a photosensitizing cream will be applied to the treatment area for a period of time prior to the blue or red light therapy. This is referred to as the “incubation period”. Following the incubation period, the light treatment (either blue or red) will begin. The length of incubation and treatment will be determined by your provider based on the area and extent of precancerous lesions. During the procedure, you may feel some warmth at the treatment site but should not feel pain or burning. This procedure is made painless with our new protocol for PDT at ReJUVA Dermatology.

Following PDT skin treatment, it is important to avoid the sun for the next 2 days as the treated area will be uncomfortable if exposed to the sun. The treated area may turn slightly red and light skin peeling may occur. This is considered an appropriate response to therapy as it removes the precancerous lesions. Multiple treatments may be required for the best results. Many patients also report an overall improvement in skin texture and discoloration after several PDT treatments.

Call us today at 941-529-0070 to schedule your consultation with one of our dermatology specialists to discuss our PDT and other preventive treatments.

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