Photodynamic Therapy for Skin Cancer

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Photodynamic Therapy for Skin Cancer in Washington, DC

How does photodynamic therapy (PDT) work?

In photodynamic therapy (PDT) a photosensitizer is applied to the skin. This is absorbed preferentially by certain structures in the skin, such as hair follicles, oil glands, bacteria, or rapidly growing cells. Illumination with a high-intensity light or laser causes a photochemical reaction in the skin, resulting in destruction of the targeted tissue.

What types of conditions can be treated with PDT?

Photodynamic therapy has been effective in the treatment of actinic keratoses (pre-cancerous spots), some types of skin cancer, sun damaged skin, acne, and oily skin with sebaceous gland enlargement.

Is PDT uncomfortable?

During PDT the skin is washed several times and the activated substance is applied. Either of these may cause stinging. During therapy, burning may occur and local anesthesia may be used to prevent this. Following treatment, there may be some transient itching and burning.


After PDT, a small amount of activated substance remains in the skin for 24 to 48 hours. Sunlight and even indoor light may affect this and cause redness and itching. Use of sunscreen and a hat may diminish the undesired effects.


Most people experience mild burning and itching for about one hour after the procedure, although this can last a day or two. Mild to moderate redness may be experienced for 24 to 48 hours. Routinely, gentle emollients should be applied to the skin. More focused prescriptions may be suggested by your doctor.


Areas most likely to swell are around the eyes. This will subside within several hours. Application of ice or cold packs may help.


Peeling of treated skin may occur several days after the procedure and can be alleviated by gentle washing and application of a slightly thicker moisturizer.

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*Results may vary for each patient.