A modern, highly effective treatment for certain types of pre-cancerous lesions as well as non-melanoma skin cancers.

Why you might need it

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a new treatment for certain types of non-melanoma skin cancers and pre-cancerous lesions, particularly Actinic Keratoses (AK), Bowen’s disease (BD) and Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). Actinic Keratoses and Bowen’s disease are within the spectrum of precancerous skin lesions.

Basal cell carcinomas are the commonest non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK. PDT utilises a light sensitive (photosensitive) cream, oxygen and light, to create a photochemical reaction that selectively destroys cancer cells.

A dermatologist will first perform a consultation to diagnose the skin lesions and ensure they are suitable for PDT treatment. Sometimes a skin biopsy is required to clarify the diagnosis before proceeding with treatment.

Who will do it?

Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.

All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.

Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-speciality surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.

Before your treatment

You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.

We diagnose the skin lesions and ensure they are suitable for PDT treatment. Sometimes a skin biopsy may be required to clarify the diagnosis before proceeding with treatment.

We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.

Preparing for your treatment

We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.

For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.

Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.

The procedure

The treatment is normally given in two stages:

The first stage involves preparing the skin lesion and then applying a photosensitising cream. The cream is secured in place using a dressing and left to absorb for three hours during which time the patient can leave the unit.

The second stage involves removing the dressing and any residual cream, and then shining a strong red light directly onto affected area for around ten minutes. The light activates the drug in the cream, which causes a photochemical reaction destroying the abnormal cells.

The treated lesion is protected from light exposure for 24 hours with a dressing. Following PDT a sun burn like local skin reaction may follow which resolves gradually over days and weeks.


To treat Actinic Keratoses one treatment is required, but for BD and BCC two treatments are given approximately one week apart. A follow up consultation is required three months after treatment has been completed to assess treatment response.

PDT treatment is a non-invasive treatment option that often results in less scarring and better cosmetic outcomes compared with surgery.

This procedure does not generally require an anaesthetic and is performed in the outpatients department.

Why choose Spire?

We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.

How much does it cost?

A fixed price for this treatment may be available on enquiry and following an initial consultation.

You can trust Spire Portsmouth Hospital to provide you with a single, fixed price (1) so there are no surprises. And, through our carefully chosen partner (2) you can even be considered for interest free finance.

We’re here to help you with making these important choices, so you’re then free to concentrate on your treatment and on getting back to being you.

(1) Important: Please read Spire’s terms and conditions for full details of what’s included and excluded in your fixed price* when paying for yourself.

(2) Zebra Finance Ltd trading as Zebra Health Finance , Lincoln House, Stephensons Way, Wyvern Business Park, Derby, DE21 6LY. 

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Important to note

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.