The latest news and advice from the staff of Dermatologic Surgery Center of Northeast Ohio.

How We Use Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) to Defeat Skin Cancer

How We Use Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) to Defeat Skin Cancer

Whether you’ve spent too many years zooming along the surface of Lake Erie with sunlight drenching your unprotected skin, or if you’ve been on a first-name basis with far too many employees of tanning salons from Akron to Medina, it’s possible that you’ve developed actinic keratoses (Aks).

Actinic keratoses are rough, scaly and dry growths on the face and scalp brought on by sun damage and if left untreated, can become cancerous. Taking a proactive stance against skin cancer is the best way to maintain your health and at the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Northeast Ohio we treat patients suffering from Aks with a technique called Photodynamic Therapy (PDT).

This advanced, light-based treatment uses a special solution called aminolevulinic acid that makes AK cells exceptionally sensitive to light. After the skin absorbs the solution, a light is focused on the targeted area, which selectively destroys the photo-damaged cells.

This outpatient procedure begins with the application of solution to damaged skin. Then, the patient simply waits for one to three hours while the solution is absorbed into the area afflicted with lesions. At that point, the patient undergoes the light-based portion of the treatment, sitting under a light for approximately 15 minutes. There may be some stinging or a slight burning sensation during the session, but most recipients report it as only minor discomfort. Fans and cold air may be utilized to help reduce the irritation.

Akron, Ohio skin cancer surgeon

Photodynamic therapy in Akron requires protection of the treated area from sunlight and bright light for at least 40 hours after the therapy, a critical step to ensure that the sensitive skin is not damaged or burned further. We suggest that all patients wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing over the treated area along with proper sunscreen.

Side Effects

Burning or stinging, which may last up to 24 hours following treatment

Redness and swelling, which may last up to four weeks following treatment

Scaling or crusting, which may last up to four weeks after treatment

You will need to return to see us approximately one month after treatment to evaluate the success of the PDT. Many patients need an additional treatment to receive ideal results.

The Pros of PDT

It has no long-term side effects when used properly.
It’s less invasive than surgery.
It usually takes only a short time and is most often done as an outpatient.
It can be targeted very precisely.
Unlike radiation, PDT can be repeated many times at the same site if needed.
There’s little or no scarring after the site heals.
It often costs less than other cancer treatments.

As always, prevention is the best way to ensure that you don’t ever need to undergo PDT. There’s no reason to avoid enjoying a healthy life in the outdoors across Summit county and the Akron area. Play, jog, swim and appreciate the sun, but do it responsibly and with proper and effective sunscreen. However, if your skin is damaged from too much sun, ask your physician for a referral to the Dermatologic Skin Center of Northeast Ohio or call us for information on your diagnosis and how we may help.

Learn More About PDT from the American Cancer Society