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Photodynamic Therapy Treatment Clinic

What is Non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancers includes two types: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

As the names suggest, basal cell carcinoma arises from the uncontrolled multiplication of basal cells, and squamous cell carcinoma from the uncontrolled multiplication of squamous cells.

  • Basal cells and squamous cells are both found in the epidermis (outer layer) of the skin.

  • Basal cells are small, round cells found in the lower part of the epidermis.

  • Squamous cells are flat, scale-like cells found in the upper part of the epidermis.

Like all skin cancers, exposure to sunlight (UV light) is the biggest cause of non-melanoma skin cancer. Other things that increase the risk are fair-coloured skin and older age.

Can it be treated?

  • Yes, there are a number of treatment options, including surgery, photodynamic therapy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

  • The choice of therapy depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer (whether it has spread or not).

  • Fortunately, most basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can be cured with fairly minor surgery or other types of local treatment.

What is actinic keratosis?

  • Actinic keratosis is an early form of non-melanoma skin cancer.

  • Overexposure to the sun over long periods causes keratinocytes – the main type of cells in the epidermis – to multiple more quickly.

  • This results in the development of small, rough or scaly spots. These usually develop on the face, nose, ears and (bald) scalp – the so-called ‘sun-terraces’ of the skin.

What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

This cancer develops from basal cells in the deepest layer of the upper skin (epidermis). Basal Cell Carcinoma may start as a small lump that gets bigger. The edges usually have a shiny or pearly look. The middle is usually depressed (sunken). Sometimes the middle becomes an ulcer, a sore hole. Or sometimes there is a crust in the middle. Early treatment reduces the risk of other types of tissue being affected .It is very rare for a basal cell carcinoma to spread to other parts of the body, but it is possible to have more than one basal cell cancer at any one time.

What is Bowen's Disease?

These commonly show themselves as red scaly patches, which usually occur on light exposed areas for example lower legs, arms and face. These areas have abnormal skin cells. Very rarely these abnormal cells develop into a low grade form of cancer.

Further information

Cancer Research UK 
American Cancer Society. Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous


Molecular Mechanisms of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas. Reichrath J (ed). Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006.

Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell.

Photodynamic Therapy

What is photodynamic therapy?

  • Photodynamic therapy is a type of treatment that uses the combination of light and special drugs called ‘photosensitising agents’.

  • The drugs are not active until after they have been ‘turned on’ by the light. The light causes the drug to react with oxygen, forming a chemical that can kill cells that have absorbed the drug.

  • Different drugs are activated by light of different wavelengths.

How is it used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer?

  • A gel or cream containing the photosensitising agent is applied to the skin lesion. It is absorbed into the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) and into the abnormal cells.

  • The area of skin is then irradiated with the light source, activating the drug, which, in turn, kills the abnormal cells.

  • As the drug is only absorbed by the abnormal cells, it does not kill normal cells. This means it is well tolerated.

  • Photodynamic therapy has no long-term side effects when used properly and it is less invasive than surgery.

  • Other benefits include the short time that it takes (it is usually done as an outpatient), it can be repeated at the same site and there is little or no scarring as the site heals.

Further information

Macmillan Cancer Support. Photodynamic Therapy for Skin Cancer 
American Cancer Society. Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous 
Molecular Mechanisms of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas. Reichrath J (ed). Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006.

Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell.

What is Ambulight PDT Multi?

Ambulight PDT Multi is a portable light source worn by the patient approved for use in photodynamic therapy. It is suitable for use on patients with Actinic Keratosis, Bowen’s Disease or Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma with a lesion size of less than 2.4cm in diameter.

It is in two parts;

Ambulight PDT Multi
  • a Controller Unit that is either worn about the neck or attached to a belt.

  • detachable light emitting plasters that are attached to the skin over the treatment site.

Your appointment should take about 20 – 30 minutes after which you are free to go home.

The treatment is portable so you will not have to wait in the surgery for several hours. The device will automatically turn itself off when the treatment cycle is complete.

Treatment Process

  1. Application of pharmaceutical to the lesion at the clinic (20 -30 minutes – the device will be attached and activated by your clinician)

  2. Absorption of pharmaceutical into the skin (3 hours – at leisure)

  3. Exposure to red LED light to activate the cream/gel treating the lesion whilst leaving surrounding healthy tissue relatively untouched. (3 hours - at leisure)

How we will carry out PDT treatment?

PDT treatment

On the day of treatment we will remove any crusts from the affected area. The pharmaceutical will be applied to the lesion and you will then immediately be fitted with an Ambulight device. This will enable you to receive treatment whilst being able to move around.

Once the PDT device has been fitted and activated you will be free to leave the clinic and return home. When leaving the clinic you will be issued with a dry dressing which should be applied to the area after the treatment has been completed.

You will be given a follow up appointment and details of how to return the Ambulight device..

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Opening Hours

  • Monday - Thursday9.00 AM - 8.00 PM
  • Friday9.00 AM - 6.30 PM
  • Saturday10.00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • SundayClosed