Levulan Kerastick Treatment

Actinic keratosisQ: My 88-year-old mother has been diagnosed with actinic keratoses on her face. Her physician has recommended Levulan Kerastick treatment. She does not know if she wants to go through with the treatment. What will happen if she does not have it?
 
A: Put another way, the question is whether the benefits outweigh the risks in treating the precancerous growths we call actinic keratoses, or AKs. If your mother is in poor health and not likely to live more than a year or so, it is probably not worth treating, as the risk of serious problems from the AKs over that time span is low. If your mother is in good health, though, and is likely to live 3 or more years, then it is definitely worth it.
 
AKs can range in size from very small, thin, pink lesions that each have less than 1% risk of malignant transformation to larger and thicker growths that have up to a 10% risk of turning into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In addition, the more AKs a patient has, the more chances they have of having a skin cancer form. SCC is the second most common skin cancer in the United States. There are excellent surgical and nonsurgical options for SCC, but every year several thousand patients a year die from it, as the disease can spread from the skin into the internal organs.
 
There are many great options in treating AKs. Levulan® Kerastick® treatment is the application of a chemical that sensitizes AKs to light, followed by exposure to a specialized light treatment. The main side effect is extreme light sensitivity for 2 days. This treatment is usually very well tolerated, but too much light exposure (including bright indoor light) may cause a blistering sunburn-like reaction. Other options include topical creams that are applied at home for several weeks and liquid nitrogen treatment to freeze away the AKs. A discussion with your mother’s dermatologist of the expected side effects and cost of treatments may sway you to choose one – or none – of those options.

Published on 11/12/2009 | Last updated on 12/20/2016