There are many different options for the treatment of skin cancer. These include surgical options such as excision and Mohs surgery, but can also include non-surgical options such as laser surgery, cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy, immune response modifiers, chemical peels, and topical chemotherapy. In general, these non-surgical modalities have a lower cure rate and higher recurrence rate following treatment compared with surgical treatments. The best treatment for your particular cancer depends on your risk factors, the cancer subtype and location, and any other medical issues you may have. Selection of the appropriate treatment should be a discussion between you and your physician. This article focuses on the topical chemotherapy treatments for skin cancer.
5-fluorouracil is a topical medication that is most frequently used for the treatment of actinic keratosis, or pre-cancers, on the skin. This topical cream is also FDA approved for superficial basal cell carcinomas. This medication kills tumor cells when applied directly onto the skin. The medication does not spread throughout the body, but can make the treated skin irritated, red, crusty and sensitive. The treatment can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun and precautions should be taken to prevent burns to the treated area.
Additionally, imiquimod is another topical medication that can be used to treat actinic keratoses and superficial basal cell cancers. Imiquimod modulates the immune system to fight off abnormal cells on the skin. Schedules vary depending on the diagnosis being treated. This medication can also cause redness, irritation, crusting and sensitivity. In addition, it can cause flu-like symptoms while you are using the medication.
As mentioned previously, the usage of topical medications to treat skin cancer should be reserved for select cases due to the higher rate of recurrence. Be sure to talk to your SBC physician to decide the best treatment for your skin cancer.