What imiquimod cream does

Imiquimod cream uses your immune system to attack cancers. This means it uses your body’s natural defences to kill the skin cancer cells. It does this by releasing a number of chemicals called cytokines. One of these cytokines is called interferon. Interferon is a protein that is made naturally as part of the body’s immune response. Interferon is also used as a cancer treatment. It is thought that imiquimod makes cells produce more interferon which destroys the skin cancer cells.

Side effects of imiquimod

For basal cell skin cancer, you usually put imiquimod (Aldara) on to the affected area once a day, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to do this. 

Some people find that their skin gets red and sore in the area. This usually starts within 3 to 5 days. Let your doctor or nurse know if this happens. Some people have a lot of scabbing and crusting, which can be uncomfortable. Your skin may also change colour afterwards. This may go back to normal after a few months or in rare cases may be permanent. Your hair may also fall out in the treatment area.

In a few people more serious skin reactions can occur. These can cause a very sore area, or spots on the skin, as well as itching, a high temperature (fever), feeling generally unwell, achy joints, eyesight changes, and burning, painful or itchy eyes and mouth sores. If you have this, stop using the cream and tell your doctor immediately.

The following regime is to be continued until healing is complete

Each morning shower or gently clean the area with water.

Once dry apply the provided anitbiotic ointment two to three times per day as a thin layer to keep it moist. Do not allow it to dry out.

Once healed follow the regime below daily for the next six months

Apply a high factor sun screen every morning. This will reduce the risk of developing brown discouration in the area, and minimise the risk of further skin cancer. You may find a thin consistancy product (milky rarther than creamy) will soak in better.

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