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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Imiquimod (Aldara®)


Brand Name: Aldara®

Imiquimod is used in the treatment of basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Imiquimod belongs to a class of drugs known as immune response modifiers. This drug can help the body fight viruses that cause other conditions, such as external warts. However, it is not clear how imiquimod works in the treatment of basal cell carcinoma.

This medication is given as cream that is applied to the skin. Typically, the cream is applied once daily for five consecutive days of each week. The cream is applied directly onto the basal cell carcinoma and the surrounding area, and is left on for about 8 hours. Imiquimod should be used for a full six weeks, even if the cancer is no longer visible on the skin surface. The treated area should not be covered by a bandage or dressing unless instructed by the doctor. The cream should not be applied near the eyes, lips, or other openings in the body. If the cream gets in the mouth or eyes, rinse thoroughly right away.

Imiquimod side effects

To prevent problematic interactions between imiquimod and other drugs, be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, and what other medications and supplements you are currently taking. You should also inform your doctor if you have a sunburn, unusual sensitivity to sunlight, any skin diseases, or kidney disease, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding.

Exposure to sunlight should be avoided as much as possible during imiquimod treatment. Protecting clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen should be worn when going outside during the day. Tanning beds and sunlamps should be avoided.

Possible side effects from using imiquimod may include:

  • Skin coloration
  • Redness, itching, burning, or bleeding at treated areas
  • Flaking, scaling, dryness, or thickening of the skin
  • Blisters, scabs, or bumps on the skin
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Back pain
  • Tiredness

Some of imiguimod’s side effects can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Skin breakdown or sores that may have drainage, especially during first week of treatment
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle weakness or pain, and tiredness

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Patients may experience additional effects not mentioned above.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team of cancer experts will explain each of the side effects of imiquimod with you in detail, as well as the side effects and expectations of all other medications planned as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Imiquimod for cancer treatment

Imiquimod is approved by the FDA for the treatment of:

  • Superficial basal cell carcinoma on the trunk, neck, arms, hands, legs, or feet.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), our integrative approach to cancer treatment works to fight your disease on all fronts and ensures that you remain at the center of everything we do. We encourage participation from both you and your family to make certain you are comfortable with all decisions made regarding your treatment.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Cancer Treatment Centers of America assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.