Photodynamic Therapy: How to get a jump start on Head and Neck Skin Cancers and prevent possible surgery
Most non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma) are directly correlated to sun exposure and sun damage. The damaged DNA in these cells has a difficult time repairing itself, thus leading to pre-cancers and ultimately skin cancers. Aside from thorough and routine skin body checks, there is an effective treatment that allows you to be proactive with your skin and possibly avoid surgery. Photodynamic Therapy using Levulan Kerastick is indicated to treat minimally to moderately thick actinic keratoses (pre-cancers) of the face and neck and therefore possibly prevent or decrease the number of skin cancer surgeries required.
Here’s the breakdown
Who is eligible? Patients who have visible sun-damage and numerous actinic keratoses on either the face and/or scalp that have been confirmed by a Dermatologist
Number of treatments: Typically, three treatments, no earlier than one month apart is recommended.
How to prep: Please consult with our concierge nurse to go over your medications. It is important to avoid certain medications that make you more prone to a sunburn. It is also recommended that you bring a wide-brimmed hat.
What to expect: Patients are required to come in one hour prior to their treatment time. Your scalp or face will be cleansed with acetone and the treatment area confirmed. The clear liquid medication, Levulan, will be applied to the desired treatment area and remain there for one full hour. After the hour is up, you will be escorted to the treatment room and sit under a blue light for a total of 16 minutes. During that time, you will be given protective glasses and a cooling fan, as the treatment produces a burning sensation on the treated area.
After the treatment: You can expect to be slightly pink immediately after the procedure – which will resolve in a couple of days. The medication will then be removed with warm water and broad spectrum sunscreen will be applied immediately after. For the next 48 hours, you should avoid direct and indirect exposure to sunlight and indoor lamps, since this will exacerbate swelling and scabbing. It is recommended that you wear a hat indoors to protect the treated area for the first two days. Patients are also advised to moisturize with a bland moisturizer to expedite healing. Over the next 2-3 days, small crusts of precancerous lesions will form. You can expect the treated area to heal within five to seven days and a significant amount of pre-cancerous lesions will come to the surface and slough off.
Follow up: It is important to note that lesions that do not fall off and are persistent should be evaluated by your dermatologist.