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What Happens During PDT (Photodynamic Therapy) for Lung Cancer

You can usually have PDT as an outpatient, meaning you do not have to stay in the hospital. A trained nurse or doctor injects you with a drug called Photofrin (porfimer sodium). You'll be sent home for 24 to 72 hours while your cells absorb the drug. The drug will leave most of your normal cells during this time, but it will stay longer in cancer cells and the cells of the skin.

You'll go back to the clinic or hospital for the next phase of this treatment. You'll get either local anesthesia (numbing medicine) or general anesthesia, which will make you fall asleep. Then, a pulmonologist will thread a thin and flexible, lighted tube called a bronchoscope through your airways. This tube allows your doctor to see inside your lung and direct a special wavelength of laser light directly at your tumor. Photofrin is a photosensitizing agent, which means that it reacts to a specific wavelength of light. When the doctor shines the special laser light over the tumor, it absorbs the light and produces a form of oxygen that kills cancer cells. The light is directed at the tumor for five to 40 minutes depending on its size. PDT may also work by damaging blood vessels in the tumor so that cancer cannot get the nutrients it needs to grow, or by activating your immune system so that it attacks the tumor. You can usually go home a few hours after awakening from the anesthetic.

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 11/15/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.