Photodynamic Therapy

This leaflet is designed to help you understand your photodynamic therapy (PDT) by answering frequently asked questions. It is important that you are aware of minor problems that may occur during and after the procedure.

  • What is PDT?

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a new treatment using visible red light combined with a light-sensitive cream to destroy cancer cells. It is used mainly to treat superficial basal cell cancers that are on or near the surface of the skin. It is also used to treat actinic/solar keratoses and Bowen’s disease, which are pre-malignant conditions.

  • How do I prepare for the treatment?

First the doctor will explain all about the treatment and the side effects. You will then be asked to sign a consent form if you agree to have this treatment. Following this, a PDT nurse will book your appointment times and dates.

  • What does the treatment involve?

The treatment will be given in two stages. The first stage will be the application of a light sensitive cream, which is applied directly onto the patch of diseased skin and covered with a dressing. After 3-6 hours, you return to the dermatology unit and the area is treated with a lamp for up to 30 minutes. These times depend on thee type of cream and light equipment used.

PDT in progress
Patient undergoing photodynamic therapy to the right shoulder
  • How much, pain and discomfort can I expect?

You may experience a burning sensation, especially in the first 5 minutes of- treatment. If this becomes too painful, inform the nurse and a local anaesthetic injection can be given to numb the area to enable treatment to continue.

  • What happens after my treatment?

The area of skin that has been treated will remain sensitive to light, so this will be covered with a dressing to be left in place for 48 hours.

  • How do I care for my wound?

After the treatment you may have some mild skin irritation, stinging or burning. Occasionally slight peeling or blistering can happen within a few days following treatmen. If this occurs you can apply an antiseptic cream, such as Savlon, to the area daily. Any discomfort following PDT can be treated with painkillers that you would normally take, e.g. Paracetamol.

  • Will I need more than one treatment?

Each lesion is usually treated twice. You will therefore need another appointment for a second treatment session. After this, a doctor will see you in about three to four months in the dermatology clinic. If the disease has not fully resolved, further treatment may be required.

If you still have any queries or concerns you can discuss these with the PDT nurse on the following numbers:

For the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital:

  • 01603 288410 (Phototherapy Unit)
  • 01603 288386 (Day Treatment Unit)