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A woman applies Efudex to her face. Her skin is raw and red due to its side effects.

What to Expect When You're Efudex-ing

You made it home from the pharmacy with your tube of Efudex (Fluorouracil), and you have so many questions. It feels like you should already have this sorted out prior to the first application, but that’s not quite how it went down at the doctor’s office. You were told the cream was being called in and told to apply it twice a day for four weeks. If you were lucky, you might have been told that you could expect to experience something akin to a severe sunburn. Most patients like you hear a similar story, and most of us feel lost beyond that point. You are not alone, friend.

Tips for how to use Efudex

While instructions for application and treatment times can vary greatly from one patient to the next depending upon the damage being addressed, there are some general rules to keep in mind as you set out on your own Efudex journey.

Apply a very thin layer

A little goes a long way as Efudex is a potent topical chemotherapy cream.

Plan for time to absorb

Allow the cream time to absorb completely before the nighttime application so as not to transfer to clothing or bedding.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands thoroughly after every application to prevent transfer to pets, surfaces, and other parts of the body.

Target the same area

Apply the cream to the same area each time. This seems like a no-brainer, but it may take several days to begin seeing the effects of the cream. Until then, a defined area is not clear. Going wider and wider with the cream makes for an area larger than you and your doctor may have initially intended.

Use caution when washing

Washing the treated area gets a little tricky. My dermatologist, thankfully, advised me about cleansing the area. She told me to wash the area with water only during treatment and to avoid using any products on the area as much as possible. I pat the area well with warm water and rub gently. (Later during treatment, rubbing will be a huge no-no.) Pat the area dry. When necessary, I use a very mild cleanser like Cetaphil to clean the treated area. All other scented soaps and body washes are to be avoided per my doctor’s advice.

Make it a routine

Set aside the same time daily to apply. When on a twice a day routine, I apply in the morning after I have allowed my skin to dry thoroughly. Following a shower in the evening, I allow my skin to dry and apply the cream about an hour or so before bed.

Avoid your regular skincare routine

Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t apply lotions, creams, or moisturizers to the area being treated. Makeup will be off your radar for a while, too. Things are going to be different for a while.

Seek professional advice

Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor’s office with questions. They might not have told you the whole story upfront, but they are invaluable when it comes to advice as your skin begins to react.

Expect the unexpected

I hate to leave you on that note, but I wouldn’t be doing you justice if I told you that your experience will be just like the next user. Every user’s experience is unique, and every user’s side effects and results will vary.

The community is here for you

Going forward with your little tube, know this. There exists an entire community of skin cancer patients charged with the same instructions to pick up Efudex on the way home, apply it daily, and wait. If you are feeling lost, confused, and a bit overwhelmed, the rest of us are here for you. Our online communities are waiting to help you address your questions. Facebook, as well, boasts support groups set up to attend to the needs of Efudex users like you. Reach out, we are here.

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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.

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