As you probably know, cancer treatments can cause unpleasant side effects. Changes to the skin are part of the possible side effects. For patients who receive radiation treatment, the skin at the treatment area may become red, dry, and tender like a sunburn. In some cases, the skin may swell or blister as well. Patients receiving certain targeted therapies may experience dry, itchy rashes.
Even if you do not experience skin-related side effects, cancer can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. Practicing good skin care can help you avoid infections from minor cuts and scrapes. Your skin is your largest organ. Take good care of it, especially during cancer treatment!
How can you best care for your skin during cancer treatment?
- If your skin is irritated due to treatment, use unscented soap, shampoo, lotion, and laundry detergent.
- Do not use perfumes or bath products contacting alcohol. Alcohol dries the skin, making irritation worse.
- Always wear gloves when cleaning to avoid skin contact with cleaning products.
- Do not pick at your skin blisters, rashers, incisions, etc.
- Keep skin well moisturized using lotions or ointments made specifically for sensitive skin. Ask your doctor or dermatologist for a recommendation. (Do not apply moisturizers right before radiation treatment. The skin needs to be clean and dry.)
- Watch for signs of infection: swelling, redness, warmth, pus, fever, or bad smells.
- Practice good wound care after surgery.
- Protect your skin from the sun by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 of higher every day. Always remember to reapply!
- See a dermatologist for annual skin checks, and perform your own skin checks at home. Remember your ABCs: asymmetric, border, color, diameter, evolving. If you notice any new or changing moles, have you dermatologist check it out.
- Do not use tanning beds or stay in the sun without sun protection. Opt for spray tans, tanning lotions, or makeup to achieve a sun-kissed glow, or learn to love the skin you’re in!
- Use bug repellant if you’ll be near a lake or wooded area. Bug bites could lead to an infection if your immune system is weakened due to cancer treatment. If you get bit, don’t scratch!
- Practice good nail care both fingers and toes! Keep nails neatly trimmed and moisturized.