With new technology emerging by the minute, science is always evolving for the benefit of humanity. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) has emerged as an increasingly popular treatment for various conditions, including cancer. Keep reading for more information about photodynamic therapy, what it’s used to treat, and the benefits.
What is photodynamic therapy?
PDT involves light and a photosensitizing chemical substance. It’s used in conjunction with molecular oxygen to elicit phototoxicity, or cell death. PDT has proven the ability to kill microbial cells, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This phenomenon was first reported in 1990.
What is photodynamic therapy used to treat?
PDT can be used to treat a range of conditions, including wet age-related macular degeneration, psoriasis, atherosclerosis, and even acne. It’s also shown some efficacy in anti-viral treatments, including herpes. It’s been recognized as a treatment strategy that is both minimally invasive and minimally toxic and has also been used to treat malignant cancers including head and neck, lung, bladder, and skin cancers.
When compared to surgical procedures, PDT doesn’t require a lengthy recuperation or risk of scarring. However, a possible side effect is the associated photosensitization of skin tissue. It’s also becoming increasingly popular worldwide — more than 3,000 tumors in the various organs have been treated in 32 countries!
What are the steps involved with photodynamic therapy?
This therapy requires three steps:
- Application of drug light-sensitizing liquid, cream, or intravenous drug (photosensitizer);
- Incubation period which may last between minutes to days;
- The target tissue is then exposed to a specific wavelength of light, activating the photosensitizing medication.
In order for photodynamic therapy to work, the light source needs to be directly applied to the target tissue. For internal cancers, delivering the light to the desired area can be more challenging. The light may be delivered through small fiber-optic cables into the body cavity or area being treated. Sometimes, endoscopes (a thin, lighted, elongated tube that is inserted into a body space) are used to deliver the light into the lungs, stomach, or bladder.
Depending on the area being treated and the recommended incubation time, different numbers of treatment sessions spaced 4 to 6 weeks apart may be required to achieve the desired improvement and reduction in lesions. On average, a series of two to three treatments are performed.
The Benefits of Photodynamic Therapy
Studies have shown that PDT can work as well as surgery or radiation therapy in treating certain kinds of cancers and pre-cancers. It has some advantages, such as:
- It has no long-term side effects when used properly;
- It’s less invasive than surgery;
- It usually takes only a short period of time and is most often done as an outpatient procedure;
- It can be targeted very precisely;
- Unlike radiation, PDT can be repeated many times at the same site if needed;
- There’s usually little or no scarring after the site heals; and
- It often costs less than other cancer treatments.
Is everyone a candidate for PDT?
Not everyone will be a candidate for this therapy because it can only treat areas where light can reach. This means it’s mainly used to treat problems on or just under the skin, or in the lining of organs that can be reached with a light source. PDT can’t be used to treat large cancers or cancers that have grown deeply into the skin or other organs. PDT also isn’t recommended who have certain blood diseases or medical conditions, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
Photodynamic Therapy Recovery
Recovery from PDT is usually quick and may only have minor side effects. You may feel fully recovered in less than a day and experience no side effects at all. You may experience sensitivity around the treated area. This is because of the photosensitizing agent being in your blood or on your skin and making you more sensitive to light than usual. Possible side effects also include swelling, blistering, sunburn, and redness.
How much does PDT cost?
The cost for PDT will differ based on a few things, like your insurance coverage and how many treatments you need.
The typical cost for PDT can range anywhere from $100 up to $4,000 or more for a single treatment. A series of PDT treatments can cost more than $10,000 over the course of a few months or years.
PDT therapy is a less invasive and more manageable therapeutic option for patients who are candidates for using this therapy. We definitely hope that science will continue to advance in the search for therapies that can prolong life and with quality for people.
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