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Non-melanoma skin cancer

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Potential side effects of biological therapy for non-melanoma skin cancer

Side effects can occur with any type of treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects of imiquimod will depend mainly on:

  • the dose
  • the person’s overall health

Side effects can happen any time during, immediately after, or a few days or weeks after biological therapy. Most side effects go away after biological therapy is finished.

It is important to report side effects to the healthcare team.

Skin changes

Some biological therapy drugs, such as imiquimod, can cause minor skin changes or skin irritation. Skin changes can occur during and for some time after biological therapy. Some changes in skin colour may not go away after treatment is finished.

Some other skin changes that can occur include:

  • swelling, stinging or pain in the treated area
  • redness, itching, burning or bleeding in the treated area
  • flaking, scaling, dryness or thickening of the skin
  • blisters, scabs or bumps on the skin

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Flu-like symptoms

Occasionally, topical biological therapy drugs may cause flu-like symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • back pain
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • chills
  • muscle and joint aches or pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite (anorexia)

These symptoms often occur immediately following treatment but lessen with time. Flu-like symptoms usually go away with continued therapy, once the body gets used to the drug. Check with the doctor or healthcare team if these symptoms do not go away or are bothersome.

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