Caring for Your Skin During and After Radiation Therapy
By Sheryl M. Ness, RN
Taking care of your skin during and after radiation treatment is important. Skin changes can be one of the primary side effects of radiation therapy. While the goal of radiation is to target the cancer cells of a tumor, the healthy cells in and around the area can also be affected.
Skin changes that can occur during or shortly after radiation treatment include:
redness and/or blistering, almost a sunburn effect.
Skin changes due to radiation can differ depending on the location where the radiation is given. For example, people who have radiation due to head and neck cancer may have changes in the area of the mouth and neck (dry mouth and sore throat).
Most side effects from radiation therapy are limited to the area being treated and go away within weeks after the treatment is finished. However, some people may experience long-term skin changes in the area that was treated, including scar tissue formation (fibrosis), long-term hair loss and skin discoloration.
Here are a few things to remember while caring for your skin during radiation treatment:
Use mild soap and water to clean the area being treated (do not use deodorants that contain aluminum).
Your doctor may have prescribed steroid creams to prevent itching, redness and swelling — pay close attention to the instructions.