Photodynamic therapy is a new treatment available for treatment of some forms of skin cancers. Suitable lesions include, superficial basal cell carcinomas (BCC’s) and solar keratoses.
The process involves application of a sensitising agent (cream) to the area to target abnormal cells, and then later applying specific light to activate the cream and destroy the abnormal cells.
Your Doctor has recommended that you are a suitable candidate for this treatment. There are three simple steps to this treatment:
- Preparation of the lesion
- Application of the light sensitising cream
- Exposure to a specific light source
These steps are described in more detail below:
1. Preparation of the lesion
After your Surgeon has recommended this treatment, your first appointment will be with our Registered Nurse who will scrape the surface of the lesion or skin condition to be treated. This scraping is designed to remove the outer thickened layer of cells thus helping the sensitising cream to penetrate and be absorbed by the abnormal cells within the lesion. Some bleeding is likely at this time.
2. Light Sensitising cream application
A special ‘light sensitising cream’ will be applied over the scraped lesion and the area will be covered with a waterproof dressing, and a sun-proof dressing if necessary. The abnormal cells that cause the skin cancer to form, absorb the cream underneath the dressing.
This dressing must remain in place for a minimum of three (3) hours. DO NOT REMOVE THE DRESSING FOR ANY REASON.
During the three hours of application time, you are free to leave our Room, but will be required to return at a set time later in the day, for the light therapy part of your treatment.
3. Exposure to specific light
On returning to the surgery three hours following the application of your sensitising cream, the Nurse will remove your dressing, wipe the area and proceed with the photodynamic (Aktilite treatment) therapy.
You will be given protective goggles or glasses during this procedure, for safety reasons. The Aktilite lamp, which emits visible red light, is applied to the area to be treated for 7 – 9 minutes. The light emitted is absorbed only by the abnormal cells which have taken up the sensitising cream, thus the area surrounding the lesion is unaffected by the treatment.
Some people experience stinging or burning sensations during treatment and others complain of some pain. If necessary, application of the light may be paused to relieve discomfort. Below are some illustrations of treatment.
Following treatment: Following completion of the light application, a dressing, including Vaseline will be placed on the treated area by the Nurse. Dressings should be left intact for two (2) days, and then removed and the area kept moist with Vaseline until it has healed. You are advised to keep the area away from the sun and to wear sun protection at all times.
The treatment will be repeated one (1) week later. Your Surgeon will review your progress 6 – 8 weeks following completion of your treatment. As this treatment uses sensitising cream to target only the abnormal cells, then treatment is accurate. The lesion is destroyed and surrounding tissue preserved, resulting in a much-reduced potential for scarring.
Common side effects include
- Local discomfort
- Mild to moderate redness
- Mild to moderate swelling or inflammation
- Crusting may occur as the wound heals
- Peeling may also occur during the healing process