Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a cream that kills cancer cells when a special light is applied. It is used to treat sunspots, superficial basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in situ (Bowen’s disease).
How it’s done
After gently scraping the area to remove any dry skin or crusting, the doctor applies a cream to the skin. After three hours, light is shined onto the area for about eight minutes. The area is covered with a bandage. For skin cancers, PDT is usually repeated 1–2 weeks later.
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 these side effects with a cold water spray or pack, or give you a local anaesthetic to help ease any discomfort.
Learn more about the different types of skin cancer.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods, Consumer.
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