Fluorouracil (also known as Efudix) is a medication used as a cream to treat skin cancer and sun damaged skin, and as an injection for cancer of the breast, colon, rectum, stomach and pancreas.
The cream should be applied to affected skin once or twice a day with a metal applicator or using a rubber glove for four to six weeks and must not be allowed to come into contact with eyes, mouth, lips, nose, anus or vagina. Avoid using cosmetics or other skin preparations on areas of skin being treated, and avoid sun exposure to areas of skin being treated.
It should not be used in pregnancy unless mother’s life is at risk as the safety of this medication (including lotion and cream) in pregnancy has not been established. Breastfeeding should be ceased before use of the injection, and it should be used in children only if medically essential.
Regular blood tests are necessary to check blood cells and liver function essential for patients receiving injections.
Common side effects of the skin preparations include redness, itch, burning and skin pigmentation, while less common reactions may include scarring, dermatitis and skin soreness.
Injection side effects may include a sore mouth, pain on swallowing, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, vomiting, hair loss, itch, rash, dry skin, skin pigmentation, sun sensitivity, disorientation and nail changes.
Fluorouracil is very effective and useful in many forms of skin cancer but must be used carefully. Despite serious side effects from injection, it may save or prolong life in patients with some types of cancer.