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Good To Gripe About Efudex With Someone Who Knows

It’s comforting to have an “Efudex buddy” who knows what I go through when I apply the chemotherapy cream to my skin.

Sometimes, though skin cancer is no laughing matter, we can even joke about it. Well, maybe joke is too strong. Let’s say that while commiserating, we can make light of the mess it makes of our skin.

Sharing updates

The other day we shared updates during warm ups on adjacent tennis courts. When I arrived, she was already there with her doubles group. She called over to me. I walked over to the curtain between the courts.

I showed her the bright red dot in the middle of my throat. Some smaller areas on my face were annoying enough. But this one was larger, and isolated, and I thought it stood out like a big red cherry. “You never know what will light up,” she said.

Why does she use it?

I don’t know why she applies the cream, whose generic name is fluorouracil, or 5 – Fluorouracil (5FU). I assume she’s like me, using it to treat pre-cancers and small basal or squamous cell cancers when they pop up.

This round was typical. I applied the cream twice a day for three weeks. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you probably know how it works. But just for fun, here is an explanation from Chemocare1:

“Abnormal (pre-cancer or cancer) cells in the skin selectively absorb 5FU which then blocks DNA synthesis in the cells, leading to the death of these abnormal cells. Normal cells are unaffected by this process.”

Mostly just blotchy

It has many side effects, but I haven’t felt them.

I bought some makeup to cover the blotchy spots on my face and neck. I wanted to look decent at an upcoming wedding. The salesperson at Sephora matched a tinted SPF moisturizer to my skin. The spots blended in. But I thought my face had an orange tinge. I don’t use it very often.

Make-up or no make-up

She also sold me a touch-up stick that covered up the most obvious spots. I’m basically fine with that. I CBB (Can’t Be Bothered) about the whole makeup thing. The healing phase presents challenges also. The scabs are more porous and thin than your regular scab. They seem like they are inviting me to stick my fingernail under them and dislodge them.

My better instincts say, “NO DON’T DO IT.”

Don’t pick!

If you pick at them, you risk getting an infection or a scar. And you’ll end up with a transitional bright pink spot that will scream out for Vaseline. I pick when I’m stressed (or bored, such as at a traffic light.) Once when I was sitting next to my significant other at a wedding reception, I reached my arm out to him. He knew that I needed a bandaid. A spot on my wrist was bleeding. The conversation that had turned to a topic (money)  that made me uncomfortable. While barely realizing it, I had gone after that scab.

In addition to having an Efudex buddy, it’s helpful to have a support crew to carry your bandages! Of course, bottom line, the downsides of Efudex treatment are a small price to pay for escaping full-blown skin cancer.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.



  • Betsy62
    8 months ago

    Today I started the Efudex treatment after a runaround with insurance company and finally ordering from manufacturer out of pocket for $85 per the script from dermatologist. I had a vague notion that I needed to stay out of sun but reading some of the information on this site, I am floored and concerned. It sounds as though i need to stay in a cave for a month and not venture out !
    I live in FL, I row several times a week, early in the morning and always use sunblock when walking out the door. I also referee at regattas wearing long sleeves. A precancerous spot is what I am treating above my lip and just wondering how others cover the area to go out to the store etc? I was told that I can’t just cover with a small bandaid during treatment. I did not anticipate all the limitations and discomfort I am reading about.
    Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Am hoping that I do not have to clear my calendar for a month. Having others do my shopping etc is not an option. It seems that yard work may have to lapse.

  • Ronni Gordon moderator author
    8 months ago

    If your dermatologist said you should have it I don’t get why you paid out of pocket. Sometimes they ask for prior authorization when they send it back to the doc to make sure you really need it, which is probably a way to get you to just give up. My friend and I who are treated both go out and about. I don’t see why you can’t put sunscreen on it. If you are on Facebook you can ask to join a group called “fluorouracil (AKA Efudex)” and you can ask questions in the group or share your status.It’s a good support group if you are upset about some aspect of it. Just a warning, some of them treat large areas and post really GROSS photos of the area they are treating! The area gets red and sore and painful and so I just put vaseline on to keep it moist. If it’s this one time you probably don’t need the group but it’s interesting to know it’s there. Carry on and don’t hide in the house. It’s not good for mental health. Also, wear a hat. Hope this helps.

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