Phototherapy Q & A
How Does Phototherapy Work?
Phototherapy uses red light to penetrate all layers of the skin. A substance called aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is applied to the skin. This ALA targets pre-cancerous and cancerous cells within the skin. When the red light activates the ALA, it kills the pre-cancerous and cancerous cells within the skin.
What Can Phototherapy Treat?
Phototherapy can remove pre-cancerous skin cells and early skin cancers from the skin. While some pre-cancerous cells are clinically detectable, a larger area of skin is frequently affected by undetectable cells deeper in the layers of the skin. This is why treating all of the skin is a more effective way to treat pre-cancerous cells instead of freezing the individual spots with cryotherapy. Treating pre-cancerous cells may reduce progression to skin cancer. Preventing progression of skin cancer may help you avoid more invasive procedures like surgery or radiation therapy.
What should I expect after a treatment?
For 48 hours after the treatment, you should not expose your skin to sunlight. Ensure that you have a room with curtains or blinds so that you can protect the treated skin from sunlight coming through a window. You should plan to not drive during day-light hours for 48 hours after your treatment. The treated skin will feel like you have a sun-burn. You can work, eat, and perform all activities of your normal day. You may not feel like engaging in strenuous exercise because your skin with be tender for 48 hours. For the rest of the week (a total of 7 days), your skin will peel and flake. You should treat your skin as though you’ve had a sunburn.
How can I prepare for Phototherapy?
Ensure that you have food, supplies, etc to last you for 48 hours. You should get the following supplies:
- ice-packs or frozen vegetables to ice your skin
- a gentle skin cleanser like Cetaphil or Dove bar soap
- a skin healing ointment like Aquaphor or Vaseline
- pain medication like ibuprofen or Tylenol
- antihistamine like Claritin or Benadryl
How can I learn more about Phototherapy?
Please see the links below to watch videos about how Phototherapy works and what the process is like: