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Treatment for ulcerating tumours

Your treatment depends on your type of cancer and any treatments you have already had.

Treatment decisions

You might be offered:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • hormone therapy

These treatments can work well, particularly if you have not had any other treatments. In a few people the wound will clear up altogether. 

Treatment aims to kill cancer cells and help to shrink an ulcerating (fungating) wound. This can reduce pressure on nerves, which can decrease pain. These treatments also help to reduce oozing and bleeding.

But treatments are not suitable for everyone. Your doctor will discuss the possible benefits and side effects with you. 

Radiotherapy

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.

Chemotherapy

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

Your doctor might recommend hormone treatment if your primary cancer responds to hormones. For example, if you have oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Hormone therapy can help to shrink the ulcerating tumour and slow down its growth. 

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

Electrochemotherapy

Electrochemotherapy is a combination of: 

  • chemotherapy injected into the tumour or bloodstream
  • electrical current to help chemotherapy pass into cancer cells

It is a new treatment for treating ulcerating (fungating) wounds. It's only available in a few hospitals in the UK. 

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: 
20 Oct 2017
  • Recommendations for the Care of Patients with Malignant Fungating Wounds
    European Oncology Nursing Society, 2015

  • Fungating Wounds - Multidimensional Challenge in Palliative care
    M Thomas (and others)
    Breast Care, 2011. 6: 21-24

  • Bases and rationale of the electrochemotherapy
    LM Mir
    European Journal of Cancer Supplements, 2006. 4 38-44

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

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

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