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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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