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Photodynamic Therapy

What is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?

Photodynamic therapy involves the use of photochemical reactions between photosensitizing drugs, light and oxygen for the treatment of malignant (disease causing) and benign (non-disease causing) cancerous cells.

How is PDT treatment applied to patients?

The PDT treatment is applied in a two-step procedure. In the first step the photosensitizing agent (drug) is administered to the patient either through a topical, oral or intravenous (IV) method and is thereby absorbed by the target cancerous cells. The second step involves activating the drug in the presence of oxygen with an endoscope (a scope that is inserted under skin tissue via surgical incision) and a red laser wavelength of light that is directed toward the diseased tissue areas. PDT can be repeated without harming normal body tissues and can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

What types of diseases might PDT treat?

PDT therapy is utilized to treat the following conditions:

In cancerous treatment PDT is used for:

  • Barrett’s esophagus (cancer of the esophagus caused by acid reflux)
  • Early esophageal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Macular degeneration (degeneration of the retina of the eye)
  • Prostate gland disease
  • Diseases of the cervix
  • Diseases involving brain tissue

In dermatological treatment PDT is used for:

  • Pre-skin cancer such as actinic keratosis (AK)
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Skin cancer
  • Warts
  • Psoriasis

What side effects may be associated with PDT treatment?

There are two primary side effects associated with photodynamic therapy:

  • Local swelling and inflammation that may occur in and around the esophagus causing chest discomfort, nausea, fever and constipation; and
  • Photosensitivity (sensitivity of the body to light) ALWAYS occurs after PDT treatment and lasts for approximately four weeks. This means that both the skin and the eyes will be very sensitive to bright light.  Such exposure to light should be carefully avoided to prevent sunburn, redness and swelling.

What is the cost of PDT treatments?

The cost of PDT treatments is variable depending on patient needs. Cost is also variable upon the geographic location and skill of the physician as well as the area being treated.  Treatments typically cost $3,600-$5000.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By Staff
Updated: September 29, 2008

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