The term LASER stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser light is concentrated so that it makes a very powerful and precise tool. Laser therapy uses light to treat cancer cells. Consider the following additional information regarding laser therapy:
Laser surgery is a type of surgery that uses special light beams instead of instruments, such as scalpels, to perform surgical procedures. There are several different types of lasers, each with characteristics that perform specific functions during surgery. Laser light can be delivered either continuously or intermittently and can be used with fiber optics to treat areas of the body that are often difficult to access. The following are some of the different types of lasers used for cancer treatment:
Because cancer cells can be selectively destroyed while most healthy cells are spared, PDT is useful for the treatment of certain cancer tumors. Photodynamic therapy (also called photoradiation therapy or photochemotherapy) is a treatment that uses a combination of a light source and a photosensitizing agent (a medication that is activated by light). The photosensitizing agent is usually injected into the blood and collects more in cancer cells than in normal cells. When the laser's light is focused directly on the tumor, the cancer cells absorb the light, and a chemical reaction occurs which destroys the cancer cells.
The FDA has approved the use of PDT for certain types of cancer that are found just under the skin or in the lining of certain organs, because PDT can only pass through a limited tissue depth. Cancer types that may be treated with PDT include cancer of the esophagus, non-small cell lung cancer, and actinic keratosis (a precancerous skin lesion). Advantages of PDT as shown in clinical trials are potentially fewer side effects than other treatments and the ability to use the treatment repeatedly at the same site if needed.
The side effects of PDT are relatively mild and may include a small amount of damage to healthy tissue. Also, a patient's skin and eyes are sensitive to light for as long as six weeks or more after treatment is completed. Depending on the area that is treated, patients may experience other temporary side effects. As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any or all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.
Lasers are used in surgery for the following types of cancer because they often have a special requirement that only lasers can meet, such as the ability to reach a hard to treat location, apply heat, or cut only a very small area:
Laser surgery is also used for palliative surgery in cancer patients. The purpose of palliative surgery is to help the patient feel better and more comfortable or function better even though it may not treat the cancer. An example of this type of surgery may involve surgery to remove a growth that is making it difficult for a patient to eat comfortably.
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