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Treatment for ulcerating tumours

The type of treatment you have for an ulcerating tumour can depend on the type of cancer you have and whether you have had cancer treatment before.

The first treatment step your doctor takes might be regular cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

The tumour could respond very well to this, especially if you haven't had cancer treatment before. In some people, the wound can clear up altogether.

The treatment will kill off cancerous cells and help to shrink the ulcerating tumour. This should reduce the amount of pressure on nerves, which can decrease pain. These treatments might also lessen oozing and bleeding from these wounds.

But they are not suitable for everyone. The side effects of these treatments can sometimes cause you some discomfort. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of treatment with you.


Radiotherapy is the most commonly used cancer treatment for ulcerating tumours.

It's important to know that when you first begin radiotherapy, the ulceration could seem worse at first as the cancer cells die off. You might have a mild skin reaction to the radiotherapy, which causes redness and dry flaky skin.

Depending on the part of your body being treated, you may have some other side effects of radiotherapy.


The most common chemotherapy drug used to treat ulcerating tumours is fluorouracil. For a wound that is a primary cancer, fluorouracil cream can be spread directly onto it. But if it is a secondary cancer, you're more likely to have injections or a drip (infusion) into a vein.

Hormone therapy

If your primary cancer responds to hormones, your doctor might decide to give you hormone treatment to shrink the ulcerating tumour and slow down its growth. You might have hormone treatment if you have oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

With this type of treatment, signs of improvement could take 4 to 6 weeks to appear.


If the treatments above are not suitable for you, your doctor might refer you for electrochemotherapy. It’s a new treatment for ulcerating cancers and is not widely available in the UK at the moment. 

Electrochemotherapy is a combination of:

  • chemotherapy injected into the tumour or bloodstream
  • using an electric pulse to send the chemotherapy into a cancer cell – electroporation

Ulcerating cancers can cause discomfort due to bleeding, which can be difficult to cope with. Electrochemotherapy treatment can help stop the bleeding and relieve the discomfort.

Last reviewed: 
05 Feb 2015
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  • Bases and rationale of the electrochemotherapy
    Mir, L.M.
    European Journal of Cancer Supplements, 4 (2006) 38-44

  • Antitumor effectiveness of electrochemotherapy: A systematic review and meta-analysis
    Mali B and others
    EJSO 39 (2013) 4-16. The Journal of Cancer Surgery

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    Tobias J and Hochhauser D
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

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