What to Expect After Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for Esophageal Cancer

As soon as you are injected with the photosensitizing drug Photofrin (porfimer sodium), you are at high risk for dangerous sunburn. So you need to protect your skin and eyes immediately after you are injected with it and for at least a month to six weeks afterward.

How to protect yourself from light after PDT

Take these steps to ensure you are protected from light after this treatment:

  • Before you leave home on the day of your injection, close your shades and curtains.

  • Bring a hat, dark sunglasses, light colored long-sleeved shirt made out of tightly woven fabric, light colored long pants made of tightly woven fabric, socks, and gloves with you to the hospital and wear them after your treatment.

  • Limit your time outdoors in the daytime as much as possible. If you go outside, wear the protective clothing listed above every day—even on cloudy days. You absolutely should not expose your skin to sunlight for 30 days after treatment.

  • After 30 days are up, you may expose a small amount of skin on your hand to sunlight for 10 minutes. If you have swelling, redness, or blistering within the next 24 hours, you should continue to protect your skin and eyes from light for another two weeks. If you don’t have any reaction, you may gradually increase your exposure to sunlight.

Potential side effects of PDT

Because the activating light is focused on the tumor, the damage to your surrounding healthy tissue is minimal. Still, you may have burns, swelling, pain, or scarring in nearby healthy tissues, near your esophagus. You may also have these temporary side effects after PDT:

  • Coughing

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Stomach pain

  • Painful breathing

  • Shortness of breath

Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to ease these side effects and which of these effects your doctor wants you to call about.