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a large spot of efudex has a sad face but smaller spots look slightly less miserable

Spot Treatments: Easing into Efudex

If my guess is correct, you are here because your dermatologist has used the “E” word. And if you have researched Efudex for any length of time, chances are high you are now petrified about your pending treatment and have many more questions than answers. Truth be told, no two patients respond exactly the same way to the cream and you should not let photos and testimonies scare you away from a treatment that can have a positive impact on your skin in the long run.

Large areas vs. small ones

Keep in mind as you continue your search-and I know you will-you are likely seeing more pictures of large treatment areas than small ones. Also keep in mind that treating large areas such as the entire face, your chest, legs, or arms will yield vastly different results in terms of side effects than spot treating small, more contained areas. As with any treatment prescribed by a physician, it is important to discuss the options and weigh the pros and cons with your doctor before beginning application.

Spot Treatments

Spot treating with Efudex, for me, is a completely different animal than treating large areas. I have treated my face and my chest and, having done so, found that I much prefer spot treating. Treating large areas does rid my skin of multiple precancerous spots at once, but the side effects make for one rough ride. Side effects such as nausea, fatigue, itching, burning, and generally feeling rundown and emotionally drained are magnified when I apply the cream to large areas twice a day over a three to four week period.

When possible and given the go-ahead from my dermatologist, I opt to treat small areas no larger than a half-dollar. In certain instances, I apply the cream to an area roughly twice that size in both length and width. While sticking to a pinpointed area, twice a day, I apply the specified thin layer of cream after I cleanse the area and allow it to dry. Whether the treated area is on my face, chest, or back, I can move about more freely and avoid the discomfort of struggling to eat and the frustration of having fabric rub against irritated and, sometimes, raw skin.

Minimizing side effects

In addition to allowing me to move about more freely, applying Efudex in smaller areas seems to cut down on the number and intensity of side effects I typically experience. The nausea I usually battle is reason enough for me to opt for spot treatments. I can’t say that I never experience a sick feeling while spot treating, but I can say without a doubt that I do not feel sick for weeks on end while coping with appetite loss.

Easing in

Easing into Efudex, with your doctor’s advice, is a good way to steel yourself for what may be down the road-many skin cancer patients are repeat users of Efudex. Not every patient is required to treat large areas at once, but spot treating will give you an idea of what to expect on a larger scale if your turn comes. Don’t wear yourself out perusing Google images for Efudex photos. Take one step at a time. Talk with your doctor, voice your concerns, and find out if spot treating is the right path for you.

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.

Comments

  • riley0003
    4 days ago

    I had serious side effects even when treating a tiny area (size of a quarter) on my face. I will never use this stuff again. The pain was unbelievable. I do believe a few people have fewer side effects but 99% of the people I know who have had to use it have hated every second and most have had to discontinue usage because they got so ill and were in so much pain.
    Susan Riley

  • April Pulliam moderator author
    3 days ago

    @riley0003…I’m so sorry spot treatments were so uncomfortable for you. Efudex generally produces numerous side effects no matter how small the application amount though they may be less intense. I completely agree with you on the pain. There’s no way to avoid the itching, burning, and stinging of Efudex. Luckily there are some alternatives like blue light therapy which produces similar results without the lengthy application time.

    I hope you are doing well now and completely healed! Hugs, April, Skincancer.net, Moderator

  • ericagc
    4 days ago

    Very timely & helpful article with one caveat: I have just finished a 1 week efudex treatment on my lips. This is my 4th treatment over the years, and it really does help! That being said, I ALWAYS get a staph infection on my lips such that I request oral antibiotics whenever I start a course of treatment. It saves a trip to Urgent Care, & although I wait to see symptoms begin, I should probably just begin the 14 day course of Keflex right at the time I begin the topical efudex.

  • ericagc
    4 days ago

    Hi, Nina, I tolerate the antibiotics OK, and when one has a staph infection, one NEEDS to treat it! I have not treated other areas alone without simultaneously treating my lips with efudex, but last summer when I did my nose & lips, my nose did not seem to be infected. I’m guessing that the oral cavity may be more prone to infections. I know how miserable this treatment is, BUT I would prefer to do this periodically (prophylacticly) BEFORE having an actual Ca diagnosed. Mohs, as good as it is, would still likely leave disfiguring scars which would not likely be cosmetically satisfactory without a plastics revision (& even then, lips are dicey).

  • Nina M moderator
    3 days ago

    Thanks for sharing more of your perspective, @ericagc. I can see how you’d want to do it preventatively – I think that’s some of what April’s thinking is too. Especially, as you say, to avoid surgery and reconstruction on the lip area and also the nose.

    – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team
    Want to connect with the community? Join us on the Community page: https://skincancer.net/community/.

  • Nina M moderator
    4 days ago

    @ericagc, thank you for this point! I haven’t heard about this before, so I’m glad you’re opening the discussion. Does your body tolerate the antibiotics okay? It sounds like you have a strategy, even if it’s very bothersome to deal with both treatments at once.

    – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team
    Want to connect with the community? Join us on the Community page: https://skincancer.net/community/.

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