With the increasing cases of breast cancer, Radiation Therapy has become really helpful for curing the same. It is a very simple, painless, and generally tolerable treatment for curing cancer. However, it does have some common side-effects after the therapy to the breast (lumpectomy), and the chest wall (mastectomy) is done. The most common of those side effects is—skin irritation.
The type and the extent of reaction are different for every patient. Thus, it is essential to know how to mitigate the side-effects because radiation therapy is often an important part of breast cancer treatment. To receive its greatest benefit, we need to understand these reactions well.
Coping with Skin Irritation
Radiation is likely to cause skin reactions, especially to those patients who received the chemotherapy shortly before or during radiation therapy. Women who have prominent fold under the crease of their breasts are also prone to such reactions. In fact, this area and the underarm are the most common areas to sustain a skin reaction, on a breast. Notably, most of these reactions resolve after a few weeks of completion of the radiation therapy.
Patients who are receiving radiation to the chest wall after a mastectomy are almost undoubtedly prone to skin reactions. That is why many radiation oncology facilities provide a one-week prophylactic break halfway through the course of treatment to such patients. It helps to reduce the severity of skin reactions.
This severity, however, varies from person to person. As the course of the treatment progresses, it can become more and more noticeable. The most common forms are faint pinkness of the skin, brisk redness, sunburnt sensation, dryness, itching, peeling, darkening like a suntan, blistering, and the occurrence of moist-oozing from the skin.
When the reactions are severe, (such as brisk redness that may evolve into blisters and moist oozing out of the skin), the patients are given a treatment break that lasts for a week or two. This duration is generally enough to alleviate the worst symptoms. Doctors may even prescribe therapeutic creams, if necessary. Radiation therapy Gold Coast can be resumed once these surfaced reactions get resolved.
Treating the Reaction
During the radiation therapy, to avoid any chafing of the irradiated skin, women can opt not to wear bras or wear cotton sports bras without any underwire, that fit well below the crease of the breast, or the irradiated skin of the chest wall. If they can go braless, they should do so. If they are not comfortable with the same, they should avoid wearing one as frequently as possible, to reduce the likelihood and/or the degree of a skin reaction. The aeration of the irradiated skin also helps to minimize the skin reactions.
Most moisturizing creams and lotions without any alcohol or fragrance, which can be bought without a prescription are also helpful in reducing the severity of a skin reaction. Radiation oncology teams often prescribe these creams at the beginning of radiation therapy themselves.
Patients also should try to remain kind to the irradiated skin, because it can be easily inflamed.
Radiation oncologists suggest:
- Try not to scratch, rub or scrub the skin where treatment has been done. Instead, just massage the area with the physician-prescribed anti-itch creams or ointments or pat that part of the skin with gentle hands.
- Avoid exposing the irradiated skin to the sun. Cover protective opaque clothing made up of materials like cotton.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting blouses and bras over the treated area.
- Take a shower with lukewarm water and mild soap as recommended by the radiation oncology team on the treated area. Don’t use commercial soaps and deodorants.
- Don’t use the non-electric razor to shave the underarm on the treated skin.
- Try not to use ice packs or heating pads on the treated skin.
Skin reactions are very common occurrences for the people undergoing radiation therapy. However, most of them get past this temporary side effect. Patients usually emerge victorious on this metaphorical finish line of their course of radiation therapy. They need to work well with their radiation oncology teams.
The most crucial facet of this victory is that they derive substantial benefits from their radiation therapy and move on to lead a healthy, productive, and cancer-free lives.
Skin Clinic Robina is a leading Gold Coast surgery that specialises in skin cancer treatment and cosmetic procedures. Contact to make an appointment today!