Topical Treatment

A common treatment for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer worldwide, is a topical (applied to skin only) cream, such as Efudex (fluorouracil). If your doctor has prescribed Efudex, this introduction will arm you with the information you need to use it effectively and safely.


Efudex (other brand names include Carac and Fluoroplex) is a topical cream used for the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma when conventional methods are impractical, such as in the case of multiple lesions or difficult treatment sites on the face or scalp. It is also used to treat actinic keratosis(also called solar keratosis), which can lead to more serious invasive squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated.

Efudex is a chemotherapy drug (an "antimetabolite") that interferes with the formation of DNA and RNA, which are essential for cell division and growth. This inhibition results in the death of quickly growing cancerous cells, which absorb more fluorouracil than healthy cells. In its more potent injectable form, Fluorouracil is also used to treat breast, stomach, bowel, and esophageal cancers.


The success rate of treating basal cell carcinoma with fluorouracil is approximately 93 percent, based on a study of 113 lesions in 54 patients. However, isolated, easily accessible basal cell carcinomas should be treated with surgery since success with such lesions is almost 100 percent. Unlike surgery, Efudex is not likely to leave scars or permanently discolor patches of skin.

Other studies are now looking at how effective Efudex cream is on non-facial regions of the body, and how fluorouracil compares with imiquimod (Aldara) cream and cryosurgery. For example, in one German study of patients with actinic keratosis, imiquimod treatment resulted in the better clearing of the lesions and better cosmetic outcomes compared with cryosurgery and fluorouracil. Talk to your doctor about which treatment is best for you.

Note that this information may not cover all possible precautions, interactions or adverse effects for this drug. If you have any questions about any drug you are taking, be sure to check with your healthcare professional.


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