Photodynamic Therapy for Actinic Keratosis
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is an effective procedure covered by insurance used to treat pre-cancers called actinic keratosis (AK). The treatment combines the application of a topical solution called Levulan® Kerastick®. When absorbed by the skin, it will become activated by the blue light source to destroy damaged cells. PDT has a high success rate with good preservation of normal skin with little chance for scarring. PDT allows for an entire area of sun damaged skin to be treated at once, thereby reducing the chance of undetected pre-cancer cells going untreated.
PDT has four steps:
- First, excess dead cells on the skin’s surface are removed using an acetone scrub. This enhances the penetration of the photosensitizing agent.
- Application of a topical solution referred to as Levulan® Kerastick®.
- Incubation period of about 120-180 minutes allowing for the solution to concentrate in the cancer cells.
- Target cells are then exposed to the blue light lasting 16 minutes. Protective eyewear should be worn and you may experience burning or stinging during the treatment.
Immediately following the PDT treatment you may experience the following common symptoms of redness, scaling and slight swelling which may become increase during the next 24-48 hours. Itching and mild to moderate pain may occur.
Flakiness, crusting and rarely blistering may occur during days 2-7 following treatment and is best referred to as an intense sunburn-like reaction.
Generally days 7-10 you will notice the redness and scaling have subsided therefore the healing process has already begun.
- Strict sun avoidance is recommended for 48 hours after treatment by staying indoors and use sunscreen to treated areas. Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) is to be used for two weeks post treatment along with wearing a hat if face was treated.
- Apply ice packs to reduce swelling, discomfort, and redness.
- Take pain medication as needed (Tylenol® or prescriptive).
- Topical ointment may be recommended by your provider.
- Mild soap is to be used and avoid scrubbing or trauma to the treated area(s), pat dry. Apply moisturizers as needed.