By Margot Malin, CEO and President of Lots To Live For, Inc.
The beginning of a cancer treatment journey can be overwhelming. It is emotional and there is so much new information to absorb, and so many unknowns to research.
The beginning of a series of radiation oncology treatments may be just one piece of the overall protocol. Below we share some tips to help you through treatment.
Radiation oncology can cause a number of side effects. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before you start so that you can be well prepared. The most common side effect is radiation dermatitis – a condition where the skin of the treated area becomes red and irritated. Typical symptoms of radiation burns and radiation dermatitis include dryness, redness, itching, swelling, and possibly a rash. In addition, radiation can cause hair loss, desquamation (wet or dry), edema and/or ulcerations. Sometimes the side effects of treatment become so severe that treatment must be discontinued until the skin heals. Unfortunately, interruption can compromise treatment.
Dermatologic issues and related discomfort can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. Quality of life issues are important because they affect a patients ability to complete daily tasks and on a broader scale, affect overall emotional health and well being during treatment. A positive outlook and frame of mind can ease the cancer journey and discomfort can certainly be a damper on outlook.
Here are a few simple tips for skin care during radiation treatment. Please consult your oncology team for more though medical advice and recommendations.
- Do not expose the area receiving radiation to direct sunlight during treatment. Many people do not realize that they should also avoid sunlight to irradiated skin for several years after treatment. Please confirm the length of time your doctor or nurse would like you to avoid direct sunlight to the treated area.
- Only use products that are as gentle and as natural as possible for cleansing.
- Use warm water, avoid hot water.
- Try to keep the skin as soft and supple as possible to prevent itching and peeling. Use moisturizers with no harsh ingredients
- Only use covers, wraps and bandages with no adhesives because adhesives can pull and tear already thin and damaged skin.
- Do not remove any markings put on your skin by your radiation oncology team because they guide placement for the oncology technician.
- Do not put any creams or oils on your skin immediately before your radiation treatments.
- Wear loose fitting cotton clothing around the area where you are receiving treatment. If you are receiving radiation to the breast area you might want to avoid wearing a bra. If this is not possible, avoid bras with underwires.
- Soft cotton sheets may help you feel more comfortable at night and help you sleep better.
Even if you take the precautions above, you might still develop redness, tenderness, and radiation burns. Luckily, there are a number of excellent products that are soothing and helpful. Many of them were developed by individuals who battled cancer themselves. They have walked in your shoes. All of these products are more fully described on the Lots To Live For, Inc. website.
Below we have created a simple guide to products that are helpful during radiation skin care.
Radiation Lotions and Radiation Creams
RADX makes 4 products that are helpful to radiation therapy patients. The RADX moisture therapy can be used before and after radiation, and may prevent deterioration of the skin, thereby avoiding skin breakdown and painful burns. However, if patients have already experienced burns they may find relief from the RADX radiation therapy which contains lidocaine to relieve pain.
My Girls™ Skin Care Cream is a plant-based, calendula cream that also contains rosemary, honey and natural oils. The My Girls Cream formula is free of toxins, fragrance and dyes.
DermaQOL Relief Therapy Cream is made of a rich blend of organic essential oils which deeply penetrate and nourish the skin. It helps soothe difficult, irritated, or very rough, dry, scaly, and patchy areas leaving the skin feeling renewed. All DermaQOL products are free of all harsh ingredients.
Cool Magic Hydrogel Sheets, Skin Cooler Rolls, and Cooler Pads
You should not use heating pads or ice packs on the area receiving radiation. Hydrogel sheets, and cooler products can be refrigerated and placed on the skin – they soothe and cool the burned area. Check with your oncology team before use because they may not be recommended for very bad burns.
Cool Magic Hydrogel Sheets are mentioned in many cancer blogs for their effectiveness. They cool live nerve endings due to their 90% water-10% polyethylene formulation. They provide instant cooling to burns, abrasions, skin tears, radiation reactions and sensitive wounds, effectively reducing pain.
Skin Cooler Rolls are similar to the Cool Magic gel sheets. The natural properties of water and aloe vera combine to help soothe any compromised area and promote a moist, healing environment for healthy skin.
Cancer treatment can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Techniques and products to reduce side effects can help make the process more comfortable and hopefully improve your fame of mind, your energy, and hopefully your overall outcome. We know that you have “Lots To Live For” and we provide cancer side effect solutions to help you maintain your normal lifestyle during treatment.
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- 22 Questions to Ask Your Oncology Team About Your Cancer Treatment Protocol
- 7 Tips for Preparing for Chemotherapy and Radiation
- Tips For Oral Health While Undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiation
- Books to Help Cancer Patients: Empower Yourself by Becoming Your Own Medical Advocate
- Practicing Gratitude Can Improve Your Health, Mood and Spirit
- Comfort Slings Help Relieve Soreness and Abrasion Beneath the Breasts
About Margot Malin: Intellectually curious and fiercely independent, Margot Malin has a passion for knowledge. After receiving her MBA from The Wharton School, she launched her career by analyzing and evaluating businesses. In 2002 she embarked on the “creative reinvention” phase of her career with the intention of “giving back”. Margot founded Lots To Live For, Inc., an internet retailer that sells carefully selected products to reduce and relieve the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation.