Health

Light Therapy for Skin Cancer: Effective or Not?

Light therapy has been one of the best methods of therapy for many problems. Moreover, recent studies have also shown that this therapy can also be used to treat skin cancer. 

Bright light therapy produces a specialized kind of oxygen that can contribute to destroying the nearby cancerous cells. Moreover, it can also shrink and kill the cancerous tumors in your skin. Consistent use of light therapy can also trigger the overall immune system of the body. 

In this blog post, you’ll know all the information about light therapy for skin cancer. Continue reading to know it all. 

What is Light Therapy for Skin Cancer?

Light therapy is also known as photodynamic treatment (PDT). It also has a few other terms like: 

  • Photochemotherapy
  • Phototherapy
  • Photoradiation therapy

Light therapy is a combination of a medication that makes your cells sensitive to a specific kind of light exposure. A photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent is the term used to describe these kinds of medicine. They significantly help to reduce the risk of skin cancer

There are numerous types of sensitizing medicines, each activated by a certain wavelength of light. The sort of photosensitizer and light wavelength that you use is determined by the location of cancer in your body.

How Light Therapy for Skin Cancer Works?

When sensitizing medicines are exposed to a specific wavelength of light, they release a kind of specialized oxygen that destroys the nearby cancer cells.

Light therapy destroys cancer cells directly, but doctors believe it also operates indirectly to reduce or even destroy tumors. The sensitizing medication may cause damage to the tumor blood vessels, preventing it from receiving necessary nutrients. Moreover, these light therapy treatments may stimulate your immune system that targets cancer cells.

When do You Need to Take this Therapy?

If you suffer from a thin nonmelanoma skin cancer, you might need to take light therapy sessions. You could use this therapy to treat:

  • Basal Cell Cancer (BCCs)
  • Keratosis Actinic

If your doctor anticipates that surgery will alter your appearance, he or she may advise undergoing light therapy. Thus, if you have significant skin cancer which is not that deep, you may go through light therapy sessions. 

Moreover, clinical research has demonstrated that light therapy improves the look of the skin compared to surgery.

These therapies are not recommended for deep carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas of the skin. The reason is this light cannot penetrate the skin deeply enough.

Actinic keratosis is typically treated with a single procedure. Usually, two treatments separated by seven days are required for basal cell carcinoma or Bowen’s disease.

However, do make sure to consult with your physician before undergoing any kind of treatment. 

Procedure Before Treatment

Before your treatment, the surgeon cleans the region and scrapes away any scale or crust, or scale from the skin cancer’s top.

They treat the surrounding skin and cancer with a light sensitizing lotion. A dressing is applied on top of the skin to keep the applied cream in place and prevent it from wearing off. This should be done for 3 to 6 hours just before the light therapy treatment. You might also receive the light sensitizing medication as an injection right into a vein.

Procedure During the Light Therapy Treatment

After three to six hours, your doctor will remove the cream.

You’ll receive a pair of sunglasses to protect the eyes from the emitting light during your treatment.

Following that, your doctor will direct the light on the cancerous region. Any cells that absorb the medication are destroyed by the light. Usually, the light is red in color. They shine the light for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the intensity of the light.

When the light is turned on, you may experience a burning or stinging sensation in your treatment region. Painkillers, a fan, or even a local anesthetic might be used to help alleviate the discomfort. 

After the Light Therapy Treatment

A scab forms on the treated region, and a dressing is applied to conceal it. The dressing remains in place for approximately 36 hours. Make sure not to knock or bump it. You also need to keep the dressing dry.

The scab usually heals in approximately three weeks. The light sensitizing medication increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Moreover, your doctor may advise you to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above for at least 48 hours. 

If the light sensitizing medicine is injected into a vein, you will receive strict instructions on how to protect your skin. For a period, you may have to avoid any kind of exposure to bright light or sunlight. This is because your entire body may be more photosensitive.

Consult your physician if you’re unsure what to do next. You also need to know that if your skin is deep or thick, you might need to go for further treatment.

Possible Side Effects

It is usual to suffer from discomfort or pain for a few days after undergoing this treatment. However, taking painkillers on a regular basis can assist.

There may be some irritation in the treated area. It could appear red, pink, or bloated. Moreover, the treated region may ooze or even develop a kind of crust. This should eventually go away within a few days. However, if you are concerned, contact your physician immediately.

Bottom Line

Light therapy has been the ultimate remedy to many conditions. Regular and consistent use of this therapy can ensure to cure your insomnia, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), depression, and even skincare treatment. Further research has shown that light therapy for skin cancer has also been pretty effective. 

However, it’s always recommended to consult with your physician first before taking any of this therapy. 

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