A  A  A   Print
What to Know About Chemotherapy for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

What to Know About Chemotherapy for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. If chemotherapy is needed for nonmelanoma skin cancer, you or your doctor usually apply it as a cream right onto the skin at least several times per week for a few weeks. This is called topical chemotherapy. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and imiquimod can be used. Imiquimod stimulates the immune system and is approved for basal cell cancer. These drugs are used when the cancers are in the top layers of the skin.

Photo of intravenous drug bag

Intravenous chemotherapy may be used for squamous cell cancer of the skin after it spreads. Your doctor or nurse will explain what your treatment plan will be, what you can expect, and how to use these drugs. The length of each treatment period differs depending on the type of medication used.

Potential side effects from chemotherapy

Chemotherapy affects normal cells as well as cancer cells. For most nonmelanoma skin cancers, you or your doctor will usually apply chemotherapy only at the site of the growth. Your skin may be red, itchy, and sore while the cream is being used. This irritation will go away after treatment is done. In some cases, the skin can become infected. Your doctor can treat the infection with topical antibiotic cream. If your skin becomes inflamed and painful during treatment, see your doctor.

Intravenous chemotherapy can affect cells in many parts of the body. The side effects depend on the drugs used, but more common side effects can include:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Mouth sores

  • Diarrhea

  • Hair loss

  • Feeling weak or tired

  • Increased risk of bleeding and infections (because of low blood cell counts) 

 

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.