Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer that involves the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. While radiation therapy can be very effective in treating cancer, it can also cause changes in the skin, such as redness, itching, dryness, and peeling. These changes can be uncomfortable and may even interfere with daily activities. However, there are steps that can be taken to manage skin changes caused by radiation therapy.
Keep the skin clean and dry: It is important to keep the skin clean and dry to prevent infection and irritation. Use a gentle soap and lukewarm water to clean the skin, and then gently pat it dry with a soft towel. Avoid rubbing the skin, as this can cause further irritation.
Moisturize regularly: Radiation therapy can cause the skin to become dry and itchy. To combat this, it is important to moisturize the skin regularly. Use a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer that does not contain alcohol, as this can be drying to the skin. Apply the moisturizer immediately after showering or bathing, while the skin is still damp, to help lock in moisture.
Avoid hot water and harsh soaps: Hot water and harsh soaps can further irritate the skin. Avoid taking hot baths or showers, as this can strip the skin of its natural oils. Instead, use lukewarm water and a gentle soap or cleanser.
Wear loose-fitting clothing: Tight-fitting clothing can rub against the skin and cause further irritation. Instead, wear loose-fitting clothing made from soft, breathable fabrics like cotton.
Protect the skin from the sun: Radiation therapy can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. To prevent further damage, avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (10 am to 4 pm) and wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and hats. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on exposed skin, and reapply every two hours.
Avoid irritants: Radiation therapy can make the skin more sensitive to certain substances. Avoid using harsh chemicals, such as perfumes, soaps, and lotions, on the affected area. Also, avoid using products that contain alcohol, as this can be drying to the skin.
Use cool compresses: If the skin is red and inflamed, cool compresses can help reduce swelling and soothe the skin. Soak a clean cloth in cool water and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time.
Talk to your healthcare provider: If you experience severe skin changes, such as blistering or open sores, talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend additional treatments, such as prescription creams or ointments, to help manage your symptoms.
In addition to these tips, it is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle during radiation therapy. Eat a well-balanced diet, get plenty of rest, and avoid smoking and alcohol. By taking care of yourself and your skin, you can help manage the skin changes caused by radiation therapy and ensure the best possible outcome from your treatment.