Cancer Care Parcel Logo
Cancer Care Parcel Logo

No products in the basket.

For Everyone Touched By Cancer

Looking After Your Skin Before, During And After Radiotherapy

Written by Cancer Care Parcel on 
24th April, 2023
Updated: 25th April, 2023
Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Radiation therapy is a treatment method that uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.

During radiation therapy, the radiation is delivered in small doses over a period of several weeks. The radiation doses are carefully calculated to ensure that the cancer cells are destroyed while minimizing the damage to healthy tissue.

Skin symptoms from radiation treatment may not be immediately noticeable during radiation therapy because of the way that the radiation builds up in the body over time. Each individual dose of radiation may not cause noticeable skin symptoms on its own, but over time, the radiation accumulates in the body and can cause damage to the skin.

As the radiation builds up, the skin may become red, dry, and itchy. This is known as radiation dermatitis, and it is a common side effect of radiation therapy. The severity of radiation dermatitis can vary depending on the individual and the location of the radiation therapy.

It is important to note that not all individuals will experience skin symptoms during radiation therapy. Some people may have very mild symptoms, while others may experience more severe symptoms. Additionally, the timing of skin symptoms may vary depending on the individual and the specific radiation therapy regimen.

Overall, it is important to closely monitor your skin during radiation therapy and to report any changes or concerns to your healthcare team. They can provide guidance on how to manage skin symptoms and help minimize any discomfort or irritation.

Types of skin reactions during radiotherapy

As mentioned above, during radiation therapy, the skin in the treatment area can experience a variety of reactions, called radiation dermatitis. The type and severity of these reactions can vary depending on the individual and the dose and duration of the radiation therapy.

Some common symptoms include:

  1. Dryness: The skin may become dry and flaky, which can cause itching and discomfort.
  2. Redness: The skin may become red and irritated, similar to a sunburn.
  3. Peeling: In some cases, the skin may begin to peel and become very dry.
  4. Rash: A sunburn-like rash may develop in the treated area.
  5. Swelling: The skin may become swollen, especially in areas where there is excess fluid.
  6. Blisters: In more severe cases, blisters may develop in the treated area.

The severity of radiation dermatitis can vary depending on the individual and the specific radiation therapy regimen. Some people may experience mild symptoms that go away on their own, while others may experience more severe symptoms that require medical attention.

However, it's always best to be prepared and take steps to minimize the risk of skin damage during treatment.

Types Of Skin Reactions During Radiotherapy

Preparing for radiation therapy

You can help minimize the impact of treatment on your skin and promote healing after treatment by preparing your skin before radiation therapy:

  1. Moisturize: Start moisturizing the treatment area a few weeks before radiation therapy begins. Use a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to help keep the skin hydrated and prevent dryness and irritation.
  2. Avoid sun exposure: Avoid exposing the treatment area to the sun or using tanning beds. Sun exposure can make the skin more sensitive and increase the risk of skin damage during radiation therapy.
  3. Avoid harsh products: Avoid using harsh soaps, scrubs, or exfoliants on the treatment area. These can strip the skin of its natural oils and make it more susceptible to irritation.
  4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin and body hydrated. Dehydrated skin is more susceptible to damage during radiation therapy.
  5. Avoid shaving: Avoid shaving the treatment area for at least a week before radiation therapy begins. Shaving can cause skin irritation and increase the risk of infection.
Preparing  For Radiation  Therapy

What skincare regime should I use during and after having radiation treatment?

Everyone's skin is different, and you may or may not experience some side effects of radiation therapy but it's important to look after the treated area before during, and after treatment to minimize the effect you might have. Below we discuss further some of the guidelines above that need to be continued once therapy has started, plus a few other tips to help reduce the severity of any unwanted skin reactions.

Keep the treated area clean

Keeping the treated area clean can help to reduce the risk of infection and promote healing. It will help to remove dead skin cells and other debris that can contribute to irritation and inflammation. It can also help to reduce the risk of developing skin-related side effects, such as radiation dermatitis.

To keep the treated area clean, it is important to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare team. They may recommend using mild, fragrance-free soap and lukewarm water to clean the treated area. It is important to avoid using hot water, as this can further irritate the skin.

Avoid scrubbing

Avoiding scrubbing with a washcloth or loofah, or exfoliating the skin during radiation treatment is important because radiation therapy can make the skin more fragile and sensitive. Scrubbing or exfoliating can damage the skin's protective barrier, which can lead to irritation, redness, and even infection.

During radiation therapy, the skin may become dry, itchy, or flaky. It is important to keep the skin clean and moisturized to minimize these symptoms. However, when cleansing the skin, it is important to use gentle, non-abrasive products that do not contain alcohol, fragrances, or other irritants.

To clean the skin during radiation therapy, use mild, non-fragranced soap and warm water. Avoid using hot water, as it can further dry out the skin. Pat the skin dry with a soft towel, rather than rubbing it. Apply a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to the treated area as recommended by your healthcare team.

Don't rub or scratch

Do not rub or scratch the treated area, as this can cause further irritation and potentially break the skin, leading to infection. If you are experiencing itchiness, your healthcare team may recommend using a cool compress or a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to soothe the skin. Avoid using hot water, as it can further dry out the skin. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, your healthcare team may recommend over-the-counter pain relief medication or prescribe a medication to manage your symptoms.

Stay away from heat

Staying away from heat sources during radiotherapy is important because radiation therapy can make the skin more sensitive and fragile. Exposure to heat can cause further damage to the skin, leading to irritation, redness, and even burns. It is important to avoid exposing the treated area to heat sources, such as heating pads, hot water bottles, or direct sunlight. It is also important to avoid using hot water when washing the treated area.

If you need to apply heat therapy to an area of your body that is not being treated with radiation, be sure to use a barrier, such as a towel or cloth, to protect the treated area. You should also check with your healthcare team before using any heat therapy, to make sure it is safe for you.

Don't wear tight clothing near the treated skin

Tight clothing can rub against the treated area, which can cause friction and further damage to the skin. This can lead to increased pain, discomfort, and even open wounds. Tight clothing can also make it more difficult for the skin to breathe, which can slow down the healing process.

To minimize irritation and promote healing after radiotherapy, it is important to choose loose-fitting clothing that is comfortable and breathable. Loose-fitting clothing can help to reduce friction and irritation to the skin, and can also allow air to circulate around the treated area, which can help to promote healing.

You may also want to choose clothing that is made from soft, natural materials, such as cotton or bamboo, which are less likely to irritate the skin. It is also important to avoid wearing clothing that has zippers, buttons, or other hard or rough surfaces that can rub against the treated area.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated during radiotherapy and after treatment is important because radiation therapy can cause damage to healthy cells, including those in the skin, muscles, and other tissues. This damage can cause inflammation and swelling, which can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can make skin-related side effects of radiation therapy worse, such as dryness, itching, and peeling. It can also make it more difficult for the body to repair damaged tissues, which can slow down the healing process.

Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, juice, or herbal tea, can help to keep the body hydrated and promote the healing process. It is important to drink fluids regularly throughout the day, even if you do not feel thirsty.

Moisturize

Radiation therapy can damage the oil glands in the skin, which can lead to dryness and flakiness. Moisturizing the skin can help to replace lost moisture and improve the skin's barrier function, which can reduce the risk of infection and improve overall skin health.

When choosing a moisturizer for radiation-treated skin, it is important to select a product that is gentle and fragrance-free. Look for products that contain natural ingredients, such as aloe vera or calendula, which can help to soothe and hydrate the skin.

Your healthcare team may recommend specific products or provide you with guidelines for selecting a moisturizer that is appropriate for your skin type and the area being treated. They may also recommend avoiding moisturizers that contain alcohol, as this can further dry out the skin.

When applying moisturizer to radiation-treated skin, it is important to be gentle and avoid rubbing or pulling on the skin. Apply the moisturizer using gentle, upward strokes and allow it to fully absorb into the skin before getting dressed.

Avoid fragrances and harsh chemicals

Avoid using perfumes, powders, and deodorants on the treated area, as these can contain fragrances and harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin. Fragrances can contain chemicals that irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions. Harsh chemicals, such as alcohol, can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt the skin's barrier function, making it more susceptible to irritation and damage. This can lead to a condition known as radiation dermatitis, which can be painful and may require medical treatment.

To minimize the risk of skin irritation during radiotherapy, it is recommended to avoid using fragranced products such as perfumes, lotions, and soaps, as well as harsh chemicals such as alcohol-based products. Instead, it is recommended to use gentle, fragrance-free products specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Additionally, it is important to keep the skin clean and well-moisturized to help prevent dryness and itching.

Protect your skin from the sun

Protecting your skin from the sun after radiotherapy is important because radiation therapy can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. The radiation can damage the skin cells and weaken the skin's protective barrier, making it more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun. Sun exposure can also increase the risk of skin cancer, which is a concern for anyone who has undergone radiation therapy.

To protect your skin from the sun after radiotherapy, you should avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, especially during peak hours when the sun is strongest. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats, and use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or more often if you are sweating or swimming.

It is also important to avoid using tanning beds or sun lamps, as they can also damage your skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. If you do need to spend time outdoors, be sure to take extra precautions to protect your skin and reduce your risk of sun damage.

Gentle skin care products for radiotherapy patients

Final word

Remember that everyone's experience with radiation therapy is different, and it is important to follow your healthcare team's advice and guidance. By taking care of yourself and following your treatment plan, you can improve your chances of a successful outcome.

Gift ideas for people having radiation therapy

We strongly advise you to talk with a health care professional about specific medical conditions and treatments. The information on our site is meant to be helpful and educational but is not a substitute for medical advice.

Related Posts

Returning To Work After Cancer

As someone who was once a career “expert” and even wrote books about it, I had the gall to write a blog post and make videos about returning to work after a “blank space” on the resume due to illness or child care. Ha! I say to myself. I just had no idea I mean […]

Read More
How to Respond To a Friend With Breast Cancer

If Your Friend Has Breast Cancer, You Really Need To Show Up For Them And Give Your Support. This Article Shows You How.

Read More
From Me to You: Letter Writing To People With Cancer

From Me to You’s website is filled with writing resources, toolkits and a community to help anyone interested in writing letters.

Read More
"Stop Telling Me To Be Brave" Campaign To Support People With Cancer

Whilst researching for our two books (What to say to someone with cancer and How to treat someone newly diagnosed with cancer, both to be launched late 2021) we found an overwhelming number of people with cancer disliked being told to be brave.

Read More
1 2 3 50

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Featured products

Sign up for more information
I HAVE CANCER 
3 Days Of Tips For People With Cancer
MY FRIEND HAS CANCER
3 Days Of Tips To Help You Help Your Friend

MONTHLY NEWSLETTER
Newsletter For
Anyone Touched By Cancer
Sustainability Matters
Every purchase, big or small, has a footprint. But sustainability challenges don’t have a quick fix.
WHAT WE DO TO HELP
We use a hosting service that is run on 100% renewable electricity from sources like the sun, wind and sea.
We use a fulfillment partner who are fully committed to minimizing their environmental impact.
All our hampers are created in eco-friendly recyclable boxes.
Our printed products are printed-on-demand, creating less waste than conventional manufacturing.
A tree is planted for every product purchased.
Eco Friendly
Cancer Care Parcel Ltd. Registered in England and Wales.
Trading Address: Highstone House, 165 High Street, Barnet, Herts. EN5 5SU, UK. Registered Office: 7a High Street, Barnet, Herts, EN5 5UE.
Company Number 14415197, VAT number is GB428826076,  EORI number is XI428826076000
SITEMAP
cartmagnifiercrosschevron-downquestion-circle