Photodynamic therapy is a treatment option that's used on patients suffering from cancer. This therapy involves the use of a photosensitizing drug which is unique in nature. These drugs are activated when they're exposed to a source of light. Once activated, the drug gives rise to an oxygen molecule. These molecules are effective in destroying cancer cells in the body.
Photodynamic therapy is commonly used in oncology and has been approved for use on cancer patients by the FDA. The therapy is generally used to treat patients suffering from esophageal cancer or certain cancers of the lungs. Apart from this, photodynamic therapy is used to treat actinic keratosis. Although the same procedure can be used for cosmetic surgery, the type of photosensitizing drugs that are used may differ from those that are used to treat cancer patients.
Understanding Photodynamic Therapy
Before the specialist uses photodynamic therapy to treat a patient, several diagnostic tests will have to be performed to determine the type and severity of cancer that's present. Ultrasounds, X-rays, complete blood count tests, biopsies and fine needle aspirate tests may have to be performed before treatment can begin.
The doctor will also find out more about the patient's medical history and current medical concerns. If the patient is taking medications for other health problems, the doctor may have to find out if there are any risks involved with the use of photosensitizing drugs along with these medicines.
How Photodynamic Therapy Is Performed
Photodynamic therapy can be classified into three stages. The first stage involves the administration of the photosensitizing drug and the second stage involves the incubation period. The third and final stage involves the use of a light source in order to activate the photosensitizing drug.
The doctor will have to first select the right photosensitizing drug that will target specific cancer cells. For the treatment to be effective, the cancerous cells or tumors have to be close to the surface of the skin. This is because the light source may not be able to penetrate the innermost layers of the skin. Once the photosensitizing drug is injected, it's allowed to incubate in the patient's body. This duration can be anything from a few hours to several days.
What to Expect
When you go in for photodynamic therapy, the area of your skin that has to be treated will be cleaned with a special solution. Microdermabrasion may be performed if deemed necessary by the doctor. The photosensitizing solution is then applied to the affected area and then allowed to dry and incubate. After the medication has been allowed to incubate for the specific period of time, a light source is focused on the affected area. A light source with a specific wavelength will activate the photosensitizing drug, and this will kill cancerous cells that are present in that part of the body.
You may have to be exposed to a blue light so that the photosensitizing drug is activated, and you may be given a fan to cool down while the drug is getting activated. The results of this treatment vary from person to person. It's best that you discuss the pros and cons of undergoing this therapy with your doctor before you choose to do it.