A woman sits in a doctor's office waiting room, leaning against a wall with question marks above her.

The Last Chapter in Topical Medications Story: The Follow-up Visit

Once upon a time, I used topical chemotherapy and, long story short, I had no idea what I was doing.

You may find you are the main character in a similar story. You are trying to find your way through the plot, hoping you can resolve the conflict that is this itchy, painful rash plaguing you 24/7. The one thing you want more than anything else is to reach the end of this sordid tale and find out that your job as the main character is over and done. Unfortunately, for many of us, this becomes an open-ended tale of the most frustrating kind and, as with our skin cancer story, we aren’t the writers.

Chapters in topical medications story

Beginning the Efudex chapter of our skin cancer story is simple. We are handed the tube, given the instructions, and sent on our way. The middle of the story is the most fraught with conflict–no story’s rising action can compete with that of Efudex’s. Since beginning regular Efudex treatments, I have learned that very few doctors will ask to see a patient during treatment. We are, in essence, on our own to write this part of our story. With very few exceptions, most of us struggle through the middle with a laundry list of questions we wish we had known to ask prior to the first application. It’s the ending of the story, however, that requires a rewrite–an edit if you will. That, friends, is where your doctor finally reenters your story.

The follow-up visit

The final chapter of everyone’s Efudex story involves a check-up with the dermatologist, but that’s where the similarities end. Some of us are told to see the dermatologist 4-6 weeks following the last application. Others are asked to make an appointment once the healing stage is complete. Still, there are patients whose Efudex story drags on for months as they aren’t told to check in with their doctors until their next regularly scheduled exam. As they look for closure to their story, they are forced to wait and wonder if the process was worth it. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it. And not amazing in that wow-that-was-quite-a-story way.

What to expect in the end

No matter when that dermatologist visit comes, there are a few things we all share. Your doctor will reexamine the treated area and look for signs of any remaining precancers or lesions. If there are any spots of concern noted, you may be told to treat your skin again in a few months once your skin has had a chance to recover completely. Depending on your doctor and the results of this follow-up, you may be asked to come in once more prior to your next regular skin check just for a quick recheck.

I wish Efudex treatments were cut and dry with an ending we could all predict and one to which we could all look forward and anticipate understanding. It's just not that simple. Our doctors vary in their approach, and our cases are all a little different from each other. Topical chemotherapy treatments are difficult enough on their own. Being left to finish writing a story you never wanted to author is a tough pill to swallow, indeed.

What was your experience following Efudex? Did you see your doctor immediately following treatment, or was there a wait you didn’t expect? Share with us in the comment section.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.