Today was the first day of my topical chemotherapy treatment for skin cancer with 5% Fluorouacil. For those of you who have not followed my blog up to this point, I have been through two different surgeries to remove Basal Cell Carcinomas in the past few months. The first was a more advanced lesion on my back. It was removed by way of Curettage and Electrodessication. The second one was on my face near my eye on the Medial Canthus and was removed with Mohs surgery. I have also had close to two-dozen Actinic Karatoses removed from my face, hands, legs, arms and chest through Cryosurgery.
My Dermatologist was a bit concerned by the amount of pre-cancerous lesions that were apparent on my sun damaged face. He prescribed 5% Fluorouracil to stop the growth of cells in both the pre-cancerous lesions and any Basal Cell Carcinomas that may be lurking under the surface.
Fluouracil is an Antimetabolite originally used as an internal chemotherapy to treat a variety of cancers. On the cellular level, Antimetabolites interfere with both DNA and RNA synthesis thus the cancerous cells die off because they can no longer replicate.
If you do a Google search of Fluorouracil, or more specifically “Efudex” treatment, you will find a lot of scary looking photos and some videos from different stages of treatment. Not everyone reacts the same way to this drug. Some individual experiences are more dramatic than others. It all depends on how many lesions you have on or beneath the surface on the skin being treated. Some people are only prescribed treatment for specific or small areas on their bodies so the overall dosage is minimal. However, some people like myself have been prescribed treatment at maximum dosage to cover a larger area, in my case the whole face.
I have decided to document my treatment with photos and updates on my blog and will file these types of posts under the “Skin Cancer” category for those who are interested in following along. I also feel it is important for others who may have to go through this same treatment in the future to know the reality of a variety of people who have used it. I know it helped me immensely to research and read other skin cancer patient’s blogs prior to my treatment.
So here is day one photo of my lovely face sans makeup (just for you) immediately prior to applying my first dose this morning. Note the smile on my face (we shall see how long that lasts).
I will be applying Fluorouracil to my face twice daily for three weeks straight. There are many possible side effects including: Skin irritation, burning, redness, dryness, pain, swelling, tenderness, changes in skin color, eye irritation (e.g., stinging, watering), trouble sleeping, irritability, temporary hair loss, or abnormal taste in the mouth.
These are the more uncommon but serious side effects: stomach/abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, signs of infection (e.g., fever, chills, persistent sore throat), easy bruising/bleeding, mouth sores, rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
Yes I know this now sounds like one of those television commercials that I hate so much and question why anyone would use one of those drugs with the risk of all those side effects.
But the benefits definitely outweigh the risks when it comes to skin cancer. Fortunately, the more serious side effects happen to a small percentage of users.
I will be applying the second dosage in about half an hour. Most people do not experience much reaction until after seven days of use. I happen to be blessed (or cursed) with very sensitive skin and my face is already beginning to turn pink and it feels as if I have a slight sunburn. I get the feeling I am going to end up being one of the “prettier” Efudex patients before too long.
And away we go!