You may experience different skin texture, tone, or sensitivity during treatment. During this time your cancer team might advise you on what products to use and what to avoid.
Chemotherapy drugs can make your skin dry and certain drugs may make the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet red and sore. This is called palmar-plantar syndrome.
During treatment your skin is more sensitive, which means you will need to be extra careful in sunlight. This is because it can lead to increased skin reaction, tanning, and burning. Intense sun exposure can also weaken the immune system even more than treatment has already.
Radiotherapy can affect your skin colour in the treated area and if you have dark skin, it may become darker. During treatment your skin may become red, sore or itchy and may cause broken veins to appear later.
The person giving you your radiotherapy will tell you how to care for your skin during and after your treatment. It is important to follow their advice.
Hormonal therapy drugs can affect your skin, nails and hair, which can cause dry skin and rashes. But the effects are usually mild. Spots can appear but this is often very rare.
Some people will have steroids as part of their treatment. This can lead to spots and redness of the skin.
Although there are side effects to treatment, there are some things you can do to help reduce any risk. Knowing the symptoms can help you notice when a side effect is developing, so you can change your routine and stop the problem.
- Pain or Tenderness
- Blisters or Wet Sores
- Peeling skin
If you develop open sores on your skin, carefully clean them with mild soap and water. Cover them with a clean bandage. Check them regularly for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, drainage, or pus.
Follow these tips to help with all skin related side effects:
- Use un-perfumed, soap-free cleansers. Soap will make your skin drier.
- If you are having a targeted therapy drug, avoid any products containing colouring.
- Un-perfumed bath and shower products.
- Avoid having long, hot showers or baths, as this can make your skin worse.
- Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it. Use a clean, soft towel to do this.
- Moisturise your skin regularly, to stop dryness and itching. Especially after washing.
- Try using a moisturising cream that contains oatmeal, menthol or 10% urea. This will reduce itchiness.
- Do not use products containing sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), especially if you have eczema.
- Keep your nails short to protect your skin from scratches.
- For dry or sore lips, use a lip balm containing moisturising ingredients such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline®), shea butter or glycerine.
- Avoid petroleum jelly if you are having radiotherapy to the head or neck, or if you are using oxygen.
- To keep extra safe you should buy new makeup to use during and after treatment and replace regularly to reduce the risk of infections.