What is Imiquimod and what is it used for?
Imiquimod cream (Aldara TM) is used to treat superficial basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) and actinic keratoses (sun damaged skin).
The active ingredient is Imiquimod (5% concentration), which stimulates the immune system to identify abnormal cells and remove them; this helps to destroy the skin cancer or sun damaged skin.
As the cream works your skin may become red, irritated and uncomfortable. Crusting may occur. Once the course of treatment is completed the skin should heal and return to normal. Inflammation indicates the cream is likely to be effective.
Before you use Imiquimod
Do not use Imiquimod if:
- You are allergic to Imiquimod
- You are pregnant or breast-feeding
- You are under the age of 18
- You have problems with your immune system
- You may want to delay treatment until after an important social engagement; if you are treating your face, treated areas may look red and unsightly in photos!!!
How to use Imiquimod
- Imiquimod is a topical treatment
- Apply at night before going to bed
- Wash the area to be treated and your hands with a mild soap and water and dry thoroughly before treatment
- A sachet may last for many applications as only a very small amount is required, but please seal it to prevent it from drying out
- Apply the Imiquimod to the area of concern and 1cm around the affected area and rub gently until the cream vanishes
- Do not cover or apply a dressing
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Leave the Imiquimod on for 8 hours (overnight) and then wash off, again with mild soap and water
- Do not get cream in eyes / mouth
For Basal Cell Carcinoma
- Apply for 5 consecutive days and then have a break for two days. For example, Monday through Friday but NOT on Saturday and Sunday
- Apply for 6 weeks
For Actinic Keratosis
- Apply three times a week. For example Monday, Wednesday and Friday
- Apply for 4 weeks (sometimes a break of four weeks and then a further 4 weeks is required)
The regime of application may be adjusted if the reaction to the Imiquimod is less or more than expected. Treatment sometimes continues for up to 16 weeks.
- Apply Vaseline or another simple, plain, unscented moisturizer twice a day while the crusting resolves
- Avoid sun exposure for 6 months and use a sun screen with SPF > 30 to prevent the development of further lesions and aid healing of the skin
- Residual or recurring lesions may require a biopsy or excision
Unwanted side effects
Imiquimod may often cause itching, pain, irritation and redness which are usually tolerable but if very severe then please consult me or your family doctor. If you develop black scabs or ulceration then stop the cream and seek medical advice.
Rarely people can experience more serious side effects such as flu-like symptoms, swelling of the face, diarrhoea; it is best to stop the Imiquimod and consult me or your family doctor