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Photodynamic therapy (PDT)| is a newer treatment for skin cancer.
PDT uses light sources combined with a light-sensitive drug (sometimes called a photosensitising agent) to destroy cancer cells. PDT is particularly useful in areas where the skin cancer develops directly over bone, such as in Bowen’s disease| on the shins and hands.
Before your treatment, the doctor may remove any scabs from the area. A photosensitising cream (for example Metvix®, which contains methyl aminolevulinate) will then be applied to your skin. It will be left on for a specific time period, usually between 3-6 hours, depending on the type of cream that’s used. This is so it can penetrate into the skin.
After the cream is removed, the doctor shines a special light onto the treatment area. The light treatment usually lasts 8-45 minutes depending on the light source used.
Afterwards, a dressing is put on to cover the area and protect it from light. You may need to keep the dressing on the treated area for up to 36 hours after your treatment. You will be given instructions about this before you leave hospital.
Usually only one treatment of PDT is needed, but occasionally two or three further treatments may be given if your skin cancer is thick.
Your doctor or nurse will be able to give you more detailed information about your specific PDT treatment.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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