Topical Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) London

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is an advanced technique for treating certain types of skin cancer and skin conditions that have the potential to become cancerous. It does not involve surgery and can usually be done as an outpatient appointment; taking less than four hours in total. The Devonshire Clinic specialises in private skin cancer treatments. We offer a range of treatments including the use of Photodynamic therapy (PDT). Book an appointment to see a Dermatologist at our clinic in the Harley Street area of London.

Topical Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) at The Devonshire Clinic

The principle of photodynamic therapy

PDT treatment works by applying a photosensitive cream to the skin and stimulating it with a precise wavelength of light to create a chemical reaction that kills cancerous and pre-cancerous cells. Since the photosensitive cream is attracted to cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, there is little damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Both the cream, typically 5-aminolaevulinic acid (5-ALA) or methylaminolaevulinate (MAL), and the light, usually in the red end of the spectrum, are harmless on their own. However, when they are combined, they create a reaction in the cells that excites the oxygen molecules and kills the cell.

What skin conditions can photodynamic therapy treat?

Photodynamic therapy is primarily used for thin cancers or skin lesions with the potential to turn cancerous (pre-cancers). These include basal cell carcinomas, Bowen’s disease and actinic keratoses (skin lesions caused by sun damage).

PDT is not suitable for deeper basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell skin cancers, as the light cannot penetrate the skin far enough to be effective.

Photodynamic therapy step by step

PDT treatments takes place in two stages, approximately 3 hours apart. In the first stage the cream is applied and in the second stage the light is used. The period of time between the stages is to allow the cream to be absorbed by the cancer or pre-cancerous cells.

Stage one – applying the cream

  • Before the photosensitive cream can be applied, the area of skin to be treated is cleaned and any scabs or crusting removed. The area may also be gently abraded (scratched lightly) to help the cream penetrate the skin
  • The cream is then placed on the skin and a dressing placed over the treated area. You will be asked to wait for around three hours for it to be absorbed. You may wait at The Devonshire Clinic in our comfortable waiting area or leave and return later
  • • Once the cream has had time to be absorbed, the dressing is removed, and the skin is cleaned again before a laser light of a very specific frequency is shone directly onto the treatment area for around ten to fifteen minutes. This may produce a mild burning or tingling sensation but is usually not painful. Cooling the skin is usually all that is required, although a local anaesthetic can be applied if you find it uncomfortable
  • Once the treatment is complete, the area will be dressed. It is important that this dressing is kept in place for 24-48 hours as the skin will remain sensitive to light

Stage two – applying the light

  • It may be necessary to repeat the PDT treatment after any swelling or inflammation has subsided, particularly if the treatment area is large or complex
  • It is possible to introduce the light sensitive drug into the body by injection, but it is more usual for surface skin cancers lesions to be treated using cream in conjunction with light therapy

What are the advantages of photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy is a popular treatment for thin skin cancers as it does not involve surgery and therefore there is less risk of scarring. It is particularly useful for larger areas of skin cancer or in cases where there is a close grouping of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.

Photodynamic therapy is also less stressful for the patient as there is no surgery involved and the procedure can be done as an outpatient without the need for a general anaesthetic or an overnight stay.

What are the side effects of photodynamic therapy?

Photodynamic therapy may cause mild pain at the site of the treatment, but this can be dealt with using standard painkillers or by cooling the area. Occasionally, local anaesthetic may be required to reduce the pain if you are particularly sensitive to the treatment.

The treated area may remain sore and look swollen and inflamed for a couple of days and may even blister or scab, but this will heal quickly and should not cause a scar if the treatment site is left undisturbed.

Occasionally, skin that has been treated with photodynamic therapy will have a slightly lighter or darker appearance than before.


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Topical Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) London

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Frequently Asked Questions Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is both a medical and cosmetic treatment. It’s used to kill cancer cells and skin cells damaged by over-exposure to the sun. This therapy combines light-sensitive medication with a light source to treat abnormal cells.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a two-stage treatment combining light energy with photosensitizers (light-sensitive drugs) that destroy cells after light activation. It doesn’t involve any surgery.

PDT isn’t widely available in the UK, but it’s a licensed and proven non-invasive treatment for various medical conditions, including pre-cancerous skin conditions such as Bowen’s disease, actinic keratoses, and precancerous field change, as well as some forms of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma. It can also help with certain non-cancerous skin conditions such as acne and also improve the skin’s cosmetic appearance.

PDT isn’t suitable for everyone. For example, it’s unsuitable for treating deep basal cell cancers or squamous cell skin cancers. It’s not safe to use if you’re pregnant or have certain blood diseases.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive treatment. However, it can cause discomfort (a burning and stinging sensation) during treatment. Although pain is only temporary, it can be intense. After treatment, your skin may become red, swollen, or blistered for a few days and develop a scabby crust for a few weeks.

You’ll have an opportunity to discuss the risks, benefits, and side-effects of photodynamic therapy with your consultant dermatologist at The Devonshire Clinic.

There is evidence that photodynamic therapy (PDT) can safely treat conditions such as cancers, acne, and macular degeneration. It’s a licensed treatment here in the UK. If PDT is used to treat early-stage cancers, the aim is to completely cure the cancer. It can shrink the tumour and improve your symptoms if used to treat more advanced cancers.

Yes. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is used in many cosmetic procedures. It can give your face a smoother texture and improved tone. It’s particularly effective for smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and improving the signs of skin ageing.

Photodynamic Therapy

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I can’t recommend this clinic highly enough. The treatment I received for my skin cancer was first class

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The team at the Devonshire Clinic were excellent. From booking my appointments to every part of my treatment, I felt that I was in the very best hands.

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Before visiting the clinic I had quite high expectations, but I was blown away by just how brilliant the experience was. I felt like I was the only patient in the clinic. Simply the best medical treatment.

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