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Intravenous chemotherapy is not typically used to treat non-melanoma skin cancer. Instead, topical chemotherapy can be used to destroy the skin cancer cells. With topical chemotherapy, the chemo drug is applied directly to the skin. Topical chemo can be used as a primary therapy, or as an adjuvant therapy in addition to a primary therapy.

Most often, the drug is in a cream or lotion and is typically applied to the skin one or two times a day for several weeks. It treats the growth in the top layer of the skin and destroys the cancerous cells. Therefore, it’s usually only suitable for tumors that don’t go very deep, such as superficial basal cell carcinoma.

Topical chemo drugs may cause the skin to turn red or swell. It also may develop a rash, begin to itch, ooze, be sore, or develop sun sensitivity.

After treatment is over, these conditions typically go away. Topical chemotherapy usually does not leave a scar.