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Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses lasers and a chemical absorbed by the body. The chemical (called hematoporphyrin) is given by an injection into your vein and is absorbed by the cancer cells. An infrared light source is then aimed at the cancer, and the cells that have absorbed the chemical undergo a reaction and start to die.

Photodynamic therapy is often used to decrease symptoms, rather than cure cancer. It may help control bleeding or breathing problems. This technique can be very effective, but it is not considered a standard option like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Photodynamic therapy is only offered at some medical centers around the country. It is best used when there is not much cancer to be killed; the chemical is absorbed less than ¼ inch into the tumor, so a big tumor will not be affected by this method.

Photodynamic therapy will make your skin and eyes more sensitive than normal to light for at least six weeks. Avoid the sun. If you must go outside, wear sunglasses and protective clothing. When indoors, avoid bright indoor lighting.

Intraoperative Brachytherapy

When a tumor extends into a bronchus, radiation therapy may be delivered directly to the tumor by means of brachytherapy. In this situation, a small tube is inserted down the bronchus, and a radioactive source is placed near the tumor site. This procedure can be used to deliver higher doses to a small area. It is also useful in helping to control bleeding from a tumor that has grown into a bronchus.

YAG Laser

The YAG laser is a special light source that can be used by the doctor (usually a pulmonologist or surgeon) to core out an area where cancer is located and is blocking your airway. The YAG laser may be appropriate when there is a tumor in the airway preventing air from passing through. This treatment is also used when radiation or surgery cannot be given.

Stent

Stents are mesh devices that keep an airway open. The doctor will insert the stent into your airway through a bronchoscope and then open it up. The stent is designed to hold the airway open from the inside when the tumor is otherwise trying to close it down. The stent only serves as a meshwork lattice and cannot keep the tumor from ultimately growing through. It is usually used as a temporary solution; other treatments may be necessary along with it.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if you:

  • Develop side effects from the treatment
  • Develop new or unusual symptoms
  • Notice your skin is red, blistered, or swollen
  • Develop swelling in your neck or arms
  • Develop fever, soreness, or bleeding
  • Develop a cough or cough up blood

References:

Learn about cancer: non-small cell. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/lrn/lrn_0.asp. Accessed October 7, 2008.

Learn about cancer: small cell. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/lrn/lrn_0.asp. Accessed October 7, 2008.

Lung cancer. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/. Accessed October 7, 2008.

Lung cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung. Accessed October 7, 2008.



Last reviewed September 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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