Skin Care During Radiation Therapy

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Radiation therapy can cause several side effects. Most of them will go away once treatment ends. The ones you have depend on the location of the tumor. They are also affected by your general health. Keep in mind that side effects do not impact the effectiveness of the radiation therapy on your cancer.

Some skin related effects take several days or weeks to develop. In fact, some skin reactions may occur days after therapy has ended.

TIP: Ask a family member or friend to help you apply lotion in areas that you can’t reach.

Sensitive skin

Changes may occur in your skin. This is due to normal skin cells reacting to the radiation therapy. The effects on skin are similar to a mild sunburn. They include:

  • Dryness

  • Itching

  • Redness

  • Peeling

Most skin reactions will heal one to three weeks after therapy stops.

Self-care tips

  • Keep reference marks from fading. These ink marks are used to help position you for treatment. When you bathe, don’t scrub them. Let water run over them. Pat them dry gently. Do not remove marks until your technologist tells you it’s OK.

  • Wear loose clothing. This will help prevent rubbing on sensitive skin.

  • Clean the skin daily with warm water and mild soap, or as advised

  • Avoid lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or powders in the treatment area.

  • Avoid products containing alcohol, which may cause dryness.

  • Avoid putting anything hot or cold on the treated skin, such as heating pads or ice packs.

  • Stay out of the sun. If you must be outdoors, wear a hat and clothing to protect the skin. After treatment, use SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.

  • Talk with your radiation oncology team if you’re having skin problems.

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