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How do I know if Aldara is working for skin cancer?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Oct 1, 2021.

Official answer


The primary indication that Aldara (imiquimod) is working for the treatment of skin cancer is inflammation and changes to your skin. You’ll want to see expected signs of an inflammatory response where the medicine was applied, including:

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Swelling
  • Itching

Aldara is an immune response modifier. These reactions are an indication that Aldara is working by stimulating the immune system to destroy the targeted cells.

Once your skin begins to heal, scabs, peeling and flaking of the affected areas will occur.

It should also be noted that while Aldara will destroy a carcinoma, it does not stop the underlying cause of the tumor, and it is possible you may experience additional areas of skin cancer in the future.

How to tell if you’re having an adverse reaction

Contact your prescribing physician if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Intense itching and burning
  • Lesions that ooze
  • Headaches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Back pain
  • Upper respiratory infection

How to apply Aldara

It is recommended that Aldara is applied at night before bed and left on the skin for 8 hours prior to washing it off with a mild soap and water. Aldara will be applied for 5 days a week over the course of 6 continuous weeks.

When using Aldara, it’s important to always use sun protection (such as sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses) to help reduce sunburn and the development of new skin cancers.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). Imiquimod: Skin cancer treatment FAQs. Available at: [Accessed September 21, 2021].
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). Imiquimod: A treatment for some skin cancers, genital warts. Available at: [Accessed September 21, 2021].
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Aldara (imiquimod). March 2004. Available at: [Accessed September 21, 2021].

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