External radiation therapy often involves skin reactions during the first 2 weeks of radiation; the severity varies from one patient to another and according to the part of the body irradiated. However, thanks to advances in medical science, nowadays, radiation does not often cause serious damage to the skin. And even if symptoms occur, they disappear completely 2 to 4 weeks after treatment. In fact, some patients do not experience skin reactions at all.
The most common skin disorders due to radiation therapy include:
How to prevent and/or relieve skin problems caused by a radiation therapy?
First of all, good hygiene is important throughout the duration of radiotherapy. It is necessary to keep your skin clean, dry and hydrated during treatment; this helps relieve and/or prevent skin disorders. The skin folds are more susceptible to the effects of radiation, and are more likely to have higher humidity. Therefore, they are more susceptible to develop lesions; take good care of them.
In addition to the guidelines recommended by your oncologist or radiation therapy team, here are some tips that can help you keep your skin healthy during and after radiation therapy:
- if you experience skin rash, do not pinch or scratch
- do not use aftershave or hair removal product on the treated area
- use electric razor rather than a razor blade to avoid cuts
- do not put anything hot or cold on the treated area without the recommendation of your oncologist or radiotherapy team
- use cosmetic products that will not irritate your skin, or interact with the treatment; the best thing is to use natural skin products that are hypoallergic;
- do not use powders, creams, perfumes, aftershaves, deodorants, body oils, lotions or ointments on the part of the body irradiated; they can irritate the skin, and even affect the therapeutic effects of the radiation;
- you can wear makeup or cosmetics during radiotherapy; however, it is good to ask your radiation oncologist what products to use and when you can use them
- wear clothes made of cotton or silk; they are less irritating to the skin
- protect the irradiated area from pressure and irritation by wearing loose clothing and soft clothes;
- if you have radiation therapy in your breasts, avoid wearing brassiere; if you are in obligation to wear them, try to wear one which is soft and comfortable;
- Protect yourself from sun exposure, cancer radiotherapy makes your skin sensitive to sunlight and vulnerable to sunburn; cover the treated area with a hat or coat before going outside. Ask your doctor if you can use sunscreen (see Skin Care)
- Avoid any cuts or scratch in the treated area. If it happens that you have a cut in the irradiated area, see your doctor immediately.
- avoid alcohol and tobacco use
- use non-alcohol mouthwash
- drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid eating a few hours before and after each radiotherapy session.