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Open Access Research article

Effectiveness of photodynamic therapy for mammary and extra-mammary Paget's disease: a state of the science review

Alexa A Nardelli*, Tania Stafinski and Devidas Menon

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta, Room 3021, Research Transition Facility, 8308 114 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2V2, Canada

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BMC Dermatology 2011, 11:13  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-11-13

Published: 15 June 2011



Paget's disease is a rare skin disorder occurring in the breast (mammary) or in the groin, genital, peri-anal and axillary regions (extra-mammary). Typical treatment involves surgical excision, which in the case of extra-mammary Paget's disease, can lead to significant morbidity. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) which uses a topical or intravenous photosensitizing agent that is activated by a light source to ablate abnormal tissue, offers a minimally invasive alternative. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of photodynamic therapy in the treatment of Paget's disease.


Following Cochrane guidelines, a comprehensive systematic review of all clinical studies and reports examining the use of PDT for mammary and extra-mammary Paget's disease was conducted. Study quality was assessed using the Oxford Levels of Evidence Scale.


21 retrospective and 2 prospective non-comparative studies were identified and included in the review: 9 case reports with 1-2 patients and 14 case series with 1-16 patients. These reports totalled 99 patients with 133 extra-mammary Paget's lesions and 3 patients (with 3 lesions) with mammary Paget's disease. Follow-up periods were typically one year or less, with 77/133 extra-mammary lesions exhibiting complete response to PDT. One recurrent mammary skin lesion and two mammary lesions treated concomitantly with surgery also exhibited complete responses.


Evidence of the effectiveness of PDT for Paget's disease is promising, but limited. This may, in part, be explained by the rarity of the condition, making controlled comparative clinical trials challenging.