Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that is used to fight cancer. It works on the combined effect of a photosensitizing agent and light energy. A photosensitizing agent is a drug that is injected into the bloodstream of the patient and remains dormant until it is exposed to light. On exposure to certain kinds of light, the drug becomes active and destroys the cancerous cells. This method of treatment has been in use for more than a hundred years now and it has proved to be successful.
Pros and Cons
The effects of photodynamic therapy (PDT) are being researched and clinically tested of late and it is found to be useful in treating many skin conditions in addition to cancer. The advantages of this treatment are that it can be repeated several times in one area because unlike chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it is less invasive and does not have any major side effects. However, photodynamic therapy has its own set of drawbacks. It can be used to treat cancers only in those areas where light can reach. Though the drug may travel to deeper areas in the body, it will not be activated unless there is enough light. Moreover, this treatment might also make the patient photosensitive because of the excessive exposure to light.
Situations Where PDT Cannot be Used
Photodynamic therapy can only be used to treat cancers in those areas of the body where light can reach. Moreover, it cannot be used to treat cancers in the areas like the thick skin pancreas because it is difficult for the photosensitizing drug to penetrate into the pancreas. Tumors and growths in these areas need to be treated using other available methods. Also, photodynamic therapy cannot be used to treat advanced skin cancers or recurrent tumors which keep growing back at the same site from where they were removed. In such conditions, alternative methods of treatment have to be sought.
Alternatives of PDT
Photodynamic therapy is possibly the cheapest mode of treatment for cancer patients. However, it cannot be used if the patient is sensitive to light, if the cancer exists in deeper parts of the body or if it has spread to other parts of the body. In such cases, there are several alternatives for the treatment of cancer. The major options would be surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. There are other minor options as well such as freezing, cryotherapy and plastic surgery that can be used as treatment depending on the type of cancer and existing skin condition. If you are looking for an alternative for PDT, it is best for you to talk with your doctor about the options available to you depending on your current situation.
Photodynamic therapy offers a great advantage to cancer patients because it is cheaper and less painful. However, its application is limited and in situations where it cannot be used, other possible methods of treatment that are available can be used to fight the disease.