Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a cream and a light source to make the cancer sensitive to light. It is used to treat sunspots, superficial BCCs and squamous cell carcinoma in situ (Bowen’s disease).
First the GP or dermatologist gently scrapes the area with a curette to remove any dry skin or crusting. Then the light-sensitive cream is applied, and after three hours a special light is shined onto the area for about eight minutes. The area is covered with a bandage. For skin cancers, PDT is usually repeated after a week.
What to expect after: Side effects can include redness and swelling, which usually ease after a few days. PDT commonly causes a burning, stinging or tender feeling in the treatment area, particularly to the face. Your doctor may treat you with a cold water spray or pack, or give you a local anaesthetic to help ease any discomfort.
Prof Diona Damian, Dermatologist, The University of Sydney at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and Associate, Melanoma Institute of Australia, NSW; Dr Annie Ho, Radiation Oncologist, Genesis Care, Macquarie University, St Vincent’s and Mater Hospitals, NSW; Rebecca Johnson, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Melanoma Institute of Australia, NSW; Shannon Jones, SunSmart Health Professionals Coordinator, Cancer Council Victoria; Liz King, Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Cancer Council NSW; Roslyn McCulloch, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Paige Preston, Policy Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Health and Wellbeing, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Michael Wagels, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
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