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A Look at Photodynamic Therapy as a Skin Cancer Treatment

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If you have skin cancer, your doctor has a variety of treatment options depending on the type of cancer you have, how far it has advanced, and where it is located. The doctor may start with surgery to remove the cancer and then also provide chemotherapy and radiation.

Another type of treatment your doctor may recommend is photodynamic therapy. This might be given alone or with other types of cancer treatments. Here is more information about how photodynamic therapy might be used to treat skin cancer.

Photodynamic Therapy Uses Lights and Drugs

This type of cancer treatment uses lights and medications. The medications might be taken internally, by IV, or applied to the skin. The medicines are absorbed more readily into cancer cells so your body's other cells release the drugs while the cancer cells hold on to them. When this state is achieved, a light is placed over the cancerous area and absorbed by the cancer cells to kill them.

Different types of light are used. Some medications work with blue lights while others work with red. The lights might be placed right above a skin cancer or the light might be used internally to reach deeper cancers. This cancer treatment targets the original site of the cancer and it doesn't treat the cancer that has spread.

Photodynamic Therapy Is an Outpatient Procedure 

You may receive your treatments at a skin cancer center as an outpatient. The length of the treatment varies since each drug that's used is absorbed at different rates. If you can take the light treatment within a few hours after taking the drug, you might finish a photodynamic treatment in one day. If the drug takes several hours to be absorbed, you might take the drug one day and come back for light therapy the next day.

Photodynamic Therapy Might Be Painful

These cancer treatments can sometimes be painful, and if so, your doctor might prescribe a pain reliever to be taken before the light is applied. You may also need to wear eye protection during the treatment. The treatment could cause light sensitivity and leave your skin red or cause blisters to form. You may need to avoid the outdoors so you can stay out of the light for a few days.

You Might Need More Than One Treatment

The number of photodynamic therapy sessions you have is based on the type of skin cancer you have and how well you respond to treatment. You might need one session, but two or three treatments might be needed.

Your doctor will let you know how many treatments to expect and how far apart they'll be scheduled. To learn more, make an appointment and ask about cancer treatment options.