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Making the Decision to Have Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for Esophageal Cancer

PDT is a type of laser therapy. This is a fairly new treatment for esophageal cancer. PDT can only be used for cancers that are near the inner surface of your esophagus, or as a palliative treatment to treat a large tumor blocking the esophagus. Your doctor may recommend PDT if any of the following bolded statements apply to you:

  • You have Barrett’s esophagus and a biopsy has shown abnormal cells called dysplasia. Or your doctor has found the esophageal cancer in its very early stages. In these cases, you may have PDT as your only treatment. It may cure the cancer if it has not spread to deeper tissues.

  • The cancer is considered advanced and the tumor is blocking your esophagus. Or the cancer has come back after you’ve had radiation treatment. In these cases, PDT is palliative, meaning it eases symptoms but does not cure you. It can help make it easier for you to swallow.

One of the benefits of PDT is that it can kill cancer cells with very little harm to normal cells. Still, you should talk with your doctor about the aftereffects of this treatment before you have it done. The drug used before the laser causes an extreme sensitivity to light, including sunlight. After PDT, you may be confined indoors for up to six weeks.


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