Skin Care During Radiation Therapy Treatements

skin              How to Care for your skin during radiation therapy!

Let’s talk about skin care for a minute. Our oncology team has found that so many people struggle with their skin during Radiation treatments. You will need to take special care of the area of skin in which radiation treatments are given. The skin in this area is easily affected and needs to be protected from injury. It is like getting a tiny sun burn each treatment. Over time the tiny sun burn builds and skin becomes red, sensitive and sometimes painful. Here are some helpful ideas we have found to easy skin reactions during radiation treatments.

Skin Tips that will help Along the Way: 

    • Wash the area with warm water, not hot. Use a mild soap, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about the type of soap best for you. Use a mild shampoo, like baby shampoo.

  • Wash softly, rinse well and pat dry. Do not rub or scrub this area.

    • Do not scratch the skin in the treated area. If the skin is dry or itchy, tell your Oncologist or nurse. Do not use greasy or oily lotion, do not use cream or shave in the treatment area. Do not use any lotion within four hours before radiation treatment.

   • If you are receiving radiation treatment to the underarm area, do not use antiperspirants or deodorant. Many of these products contain various Ingredients  that will heighten the reaction the skin has to radiation.

   • You should wear soft, loose-fitting clothing so not to cause friction between you clothes and your skin. Try to  keep the treated area uncovered as much as possible to allow fresh air to the area . You should not wear tight jeans or panty hose if radiation treatments are below the waist again to help prevent rubbing of the skin for friction.

   • If radiation treatments are being delivered to the head area, you should avoid wearing constricting hats.

  • When radiation treatments are delivered to the pelvic area, as before try to wear loose fitting attire to reduce friction on the skin.

  • Protect any treated area from the sun because the skin is extremely sensitive to the sun’s damaging rays. Keep the area covered if you will be outdoors in the sun for more than 15 minutes. Go out in the sun before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. You can wear sunscreen lotion, but be sure to wash it off before radiation treatments. Any lotions left on during radiation treatments can also worsen the skin affects.

  • Rinse well after swimming in swimming pools to void the skin of damaging chlorine.

  • Limit shaving to  the treatment area. Shaving can be very harsh to skin with out adding radiation.

  •  Take care with skin, avoid  higher than ambient  heat or cold, such as hot packs, hot blow dryers or ice packs.

  • Use moisturizers that are mild and without fragrances — Eucerin, Vanicream and Cetaphil are a few examples. Another great medication used as a moisturizer to treat or prevent dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations from radiation therapy is Lanolin.  Lanolin   has ingredients that soften the horny substance (keratin) that holds the top layer of skin cells together, this helps the dead skin cells fall off, helps the skin keep in more water, and leaves the skin feeling smoother and softer.

Skin changes happen gradually. During the second or third week of treatment, you may notice dryness, tanning, itching or redness. Please tell the radiation oncologist or nurse when this happens. These changes are normal. The skin will heal quickly after treatment is finished.

After the last radiation therapy treatment Continue to protect the skin in the treated area from any further injury, especially sunburn. Efforts to protect your skin will be life-long. If you will be outdoors in sunlight for more than 15 minutes, you should use sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. 

What has helped you to better protect your skin during Radiation therapy? I’d love to know!


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