Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy is a gentle method of therapy for the effective treatment of superficial skin tumors or of precursor forms (actinic keratoses).

The principle of action of PDT is based on a selective destruction of the tumor cells, while the healthy, surrounding skin is protected.

For this purpose, special creams or plasters may be used to the affected area, whose active ingredient is selectively taken up by the diseased cells leading to the formation of protoporphyrin IX. Protoporphyrin IX is a substance related to the endogenous substance porphyrin. Three hours later, the cream or the patch is removed. With subsequent exposure to light of a specific wavelength for 10 minutes, the formation of aggressive oxygen radicals is caused by protoporphyrin IX. This leads to cell death of cancer cells. In contrast, the healthy skin cells are spared.

Image courtesy by Almirall Hermal GmbH, Reinbek.

Advantages of the method

  • Simple, straightforward application
  • Possible alternative to surgery, with more beautiful cosmetic results, usually without visible scars
  • Large-scale treatment possible
  • not yet visible lesions / damage will also be treated as well
  • Often an additional rejuvenation effect is observed

Risks associated with the method

  • Often mild to moderate pain. Preventively an hour before the treatment a painkiller can be taken.
  • After irradiation, redness and sunburn-like irritation of the irradiated areas, rarely crusts and oozing can appear, which heal and peel off after a few days without further specific treatment. Please make sure to pay attention to sun protection during this time!
  • Rarely, pigmentation of the treated areas can appear after the treatment.

After treatment, the treated sites should be cooled down. In addition, black tea overlay or a cooling gel can be used. Please don`t apply directly to the skin any patches from the freezer, as it might be too cold für the treated area.

Typically 1 to 2 sessions are required. After the first session, the treated areas are controlled and, if necessary, a second session can be planned, or a conventional method of therapy (for example operation) additionally contemplated.

To detect new tumors or precursors in time, at least biannual clinical monitoring should be performed afterwards.

Private health insurance companies cover the cost of this treatment.