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5-FU (5-fluorouracil)  

Warning : 5-FU is associated with possible side effects which can be quite severe. During the treatment, cancer patients tend to experience a loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and dehydration problems. More serious adverse effects can include severe diarrhea, pain or cramping in the abdominal area, or blood in the stool. These complications require immediate medical attention.

 

Indication: 5-FU is a medication that is often prescribed for people who have topical cancer on their upper layer of skin.  These kinds of cancer are sometimes referred to as non-melanoma cancer or actinic keratoses.  The medication is gently rubbed on the affected skin areas.  It attacks the abnormal cells that are quickly growing, which is the main characteristic of cancer cells.  It should not affect the non-cancerous cells, but the cancerous cells that are located in the top layer of the skin.  There has also been some effectiveness with some cancers in the eye after other treatments have been shown ineffective in helping them.

 

Many of the side effects mimic the appearance of an infection because 5-FU is attacking and killing the quickly growing cells.  You may experience redness of the skin and the affected area may swell.  Often, a tingling or burning sensation causes some discomfort and oozing can also occur.  Changes to the color of the skin are also quite common.  It is best to limit exposure to the sun as the skin is often highly sensitive when a person is using this medication. 

Dosage:  As with any medication, 5-FU should be used only under the supervision of a physician.  However, the general dosage is usually one or two times each day and this can continue for a few weeks.  The medicine may come as a lotion or other liquid solution or even a cream.  When you apply it to your skin, do not use metal.  You may use gloved hands or bare hands, but if you use your bare hands it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water to remove all traces of it.

It is also important that you do not apply dressings or bandages unless your medical professional has specifically asked you to do so.  Your physician will prescribe a specific dosage and you should follow his instructions carefully and check back at the appointed times to make sure that the cancerous cells are all gone.

Overdose: the fact that 5-FU is a tropical treatment, the risk of overdose is a little difficult. However, the medication  may cause irritation and/or inflammation even at normal. If irritation is such that you cannot continue the treatment, contact your health care provider before taking any decision.  

Missing dose: It is important that you use 5-FU exactly as indicated by your physician or pharmacist; in case you forgot to apply the medication, apply the missed dose as soon as you remember it; if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing. Double dose is not recommended.  

Storage:  Store 5-FU at room temperature and out of reach of children. The drug should not be kept in the light or moisture. After use, do not throw the container in the garbage. For more information on proper disposal of 5-FU, talk to your physician or pharmacist.    

Interactions:   It is possible that other medications that are used directly on the skin could interact with 5-FU, so it is important to discuss all of your medications, both topical and oral, with your physician before starting this course of treatment.

Contraindications:  Specific contraindications are not currently listed for 5-FU, but it is always necessary to talk with your medical professional about your current state of health before you start using this topical cream or any medication.

Side effects: in some patients, 5-FU can cause skin reactions. Common 5-FU side effects include:  

  • rash
  • soreness
  • burning
  • crusting
  • redness
  • discoloration
  • irritation
  • Itching

If the side effects above persist for days or weeks, contact your oncologist. In addition, contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:  

  • fever  
  • chills  
  • vomiting
  • bloody diarrhea  
  • severe red skin rash  
  • Severe stomach pain