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Skin Cancer

Photodynamic Therapy

What is photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a medical treatment that uses a photosensitizing agent, light, and oxygen to kill cancer cells and other abnormal cells. The photosensitizing agent is typically applied to the skin, where it is absorbed by abnormal cells but not normal healthy cells. The affected area is then exposed to a specific wavelength of light, which activates the photosensitizing agent and generates a form of toxic oxygen to the abnormal cells. This type of therapy is commonly used to treat skin cancers and other conditions such as acne and age spots. It is generally considered a safe and effective treatment with few side effects.

What can be treated with photodynamic therapy?

PDT is commonly used to treat a wide range of skin conditions, including:

  • Skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma
  • Precancerous growths, such as actinic keratoses
  • Acne
  • Age Spots
  • Rosacea

PDT may also treat other conditions, such as shrinking enlarged pores and improving the appearance of scars. It is generally considered a safe and effective treatment with few side effects. However, it is only appropriate for some, and the decision to use PDT depends on the treatment condition. Your doctor at Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group can provide more information about the conditions that can be treated with PDT and whether it is an appropriate option for you.

Is photodynamic therapy painful?

Some people may experience discomfort or pain during photodynamic therapy (PDT), but the pain level can vary depending on the individual and the specific treatment being performed. In general, PDT is not considered a painful procedure, but some people may experience mild to moderate discomforts, such as stinging or burning sensations on the skin. The level of discomfort can also be affected by factors such as the duration of light exposure and the skin’s sensitivity. If you are concerned about pain during PDT, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor, and they can provide you with pain management options.

Does my insurance cover photodynamic therapy?

Whether or not insurance will cover photodynamic therapy (PDT) will depend on the specific insurance plan and the reason for the treatment. For example, most health insurance plans will cover PDT if it is used to treat a condition deemed medically necessary. However, insurance coverage for cosmetic uses of PDT, such as treating wrinkles or age spots, may vary. Therefore, it is best to check with your insurance provider to determine whether your specific plan covers PDT and to get an estimate of your out-of-pocket costs.

How effective is photodynamic therapy for treating actinic keratoses (pre-cancers)?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a highly effective treatment for actinic keratoses, precancerous growths on the skin that can develop into skin cancer. PDT is more effective at treating actinic keratoses than other common treatments, such as cryotherapy (freezing) or topical medications. A study published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery found that PDT resulted in a complete clearance of actinic keratoses in up to 95% of cases. In comparison, cryotherapy and topical medications had only 70-80% clearance rates. In addition, PDT has a lower rate of side effects and is less painful than other treatments for actinic keratoses. Overall, PDT is considered to be a safe and effective option for the treatment of actinic keratoses.

Is photodynamic therapy the same as blue light?

No, photodynamic therapy (PDT) and blue light therapy are different. Although both treatments use light to treat certain conditions, they work in different ways and are used to treat other conditions.

Blue light therapy is a light-based treatment that uses a specific wavelength of blue light to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation in the skin. It is commonly used to treat acne and can be done at home using a blue light device or in a doctor’s office.

On the other hand, PDT uses a photosensitizing agent, a specific wavelength of light, and oxygen to kill cancer cells and other abnormal cells. It is typically used to treat skin cancers, precancerous growths, and other conditions such as acne and age spots. Unlike blue light therapy, PDT is usually performed in a doctor’s office or clinic.

So while both treatments use light to treat certain conditions, they are not the same and are used for different purposes.

How much downtime is there with photodynamic therapy?

The amount of downtime associated with photodynamic therapy (PDT) will vary depending on the specific treatment and the individual’s reaction. However, most people can generally expect to experience mild to moderate redness, swelling, and skin irritation after a PDT treatment. These side effects typically resolve within a few days but can sometimes last up to a week. During this time, protecting the treated skin from sunlight and other light sources is essential to prevent further irritation and skin damage. Most people can return to their normal activities within a few days after treatment, but it is always best to follow your doctor’s instructions and avoid activities that could irritate the treated skin.

If you are interested in photodynamic therapy, please call our office at 480-666-5568.


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