Immunotherapy is the name given to cancer treatments that use the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.
An immunotherapy cream called imiquimod (Aldara®) stimulates the immune system. Doctors may use it to treat some small, superficial basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). It is usually used in areas where surgery may be difficult or for people who have more than one cancer.
Your doctor or nurse will give you the cream to put on at home. They, or a pharmacist, will explain how to apply it and how often to use it. You usually apply the cream once a day, 5 days a week. This is usually for 6 weeks.
Some redness or crusting of the skin usually occurs during the treatment, but there should be no permanent scarring. If the skin reaction is very strong, your doctor may give you a steroid cream to help.
Some people may feel a burning or tender feeling in the area being treated. This is most common at the start of treatment. Occasionally, the immunotherapy cream causes shivers and other flu-like symptoms. If this is the case, tell your doctor or specialist nurse, as they may advise you to stop using it.
Your multidisciplinary team can give you more detailed instructions on how to use your immunotherapy cream and how to manage any side effects.
We have more general information about immunotherapy.