Chemotherapy cream or immunotherapy cream to treat skin cancer
Chemotherapy cream (also called topical chemotherapy) or immunotherapy cream can be applied directly to the skin to treat some skin cancers.
On this page
- About chemotherapy cream and immunotherapy cream
- What is chemotherapy cream for skin cancer?
- How to apply chemotherapy cream for skin cancer
- Side effects of chemotherapy cream
- What is immunotherapy cream for skin cancer?
- How to apply immunotherapy cream for skin cancer
- Side effects of immunotherapy cream
- About our information
- How we can help
Chemotherapy is an anti-cancer treatment used to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy cream or lotion can be applied directly onto the skin cancer. This is called topical chemotherapy.
Your doctor, nurse or a pharmacist will give you the cream to put on at home. It is important to follow the advice they give you.
You apply the cream on either once or twice a day. The area can usually be left uncovered. But your doctor or nurse may advise you to cover the area with a waterproof dressing after putting on the cream. You usually use the cream for 4 weeks.
The treatment should make the skin red and inflamed. The area may become sore and leak fluid. If the skin reaction is particularly severe, the treatment may be paused or sometimes stopped.
Your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream to help with the inflammation. The skin usually takes about 2 weeks to fully heal after you finish the treatment. But it can take longer.
Try to protect the treated area from the sun, as it can make the inflammation worse. Usually, there are no other side effects with this type of chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy is an anti-cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.
An immunotherapy cream called imiquimod (Aldara®) is a cream that stimulates the immune system. Doctors may use it to treat some small, superficial BCCs. It is usually used in areas where surgery may be difficult or if you have more than one cancer.
Occasionally, the immunotherapy cream may cause shivers and other flu-like symptoms. If this happens, tell your doctor or specialist nurse. They may advise you to stop using it.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our skin cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) NICE pathways: Skin Cancer Treatment overview. (updated 2020)
Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits. NICE guideline [NG34] Published:2016.
British Journal of Dermatology. British Association of Dermatologists guidelines for the management of people with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. 2020.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Cemiplimab for treating metastatic or locally advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma [TA592] Published: 07 August 2019.
BMJ Best Practice. Overview of Skin Cancer. (updated 2019)
British Association of Dermatologists. Service Guidance and Standards for Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS). 2020.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor James Larkin, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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