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How do you use topical creams to treat skin cancer?

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Quick Answer

When using Imiquimod cream to treat skin cancer, the patient should rub the ointment gently on the tumor five times a week for up to six weeks, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. 5-Fluorouracil should be rubbed on the tumor twice daily for three to six weeks.

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Full Answer

Imiquimod is a topical treatment approved by the FDA for basal cell carcinoma in the top layer of skin, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation. This ointment has a success rate of around 80 to 90 percent and uses a class of drugs which stimulate the body's immune response. The immune system produces interferon, a chemical which attacks cancer cells. 5-Fluorouracil is also FDA approved for treating superficial basal cell carcinoma, and its success rate is similar to Imiquimod. Unlike Imiquimod, 5-Fluorouracil often causes irritation of the skin.

The Skin Cancer Foundation warns that these topical treatments for skin cancer do not allow for biopsy of the tumor after treatment, so it is difficult to know if the cancer has completely been eradicated. Other non-surgical treatment of skin cancer includes Erivedge, an oral medication, and radiation therapy. Photodynamic therapy may be used on some skin cancers, and it requires putting a photosensitizing agent on the tumor before exposing it to an intense blue light.

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