Skin care for Cancer Patients
Skin, the largest organ of the body, plays a large role in your appearance. Cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiation, can dramatically change the way your skin looks and feels. Fortunately, for patients undergoing these treatments, there are ways to cope with and possibly prevent some skin reactions.
How does chemotherapy affect skin?
In an effort to destroy cancer cells, chemotherapy targets all fast-growing cells. Because skin cells are also fast-growing, they are affected by most chemotherapy agents. As a result, chemotherapy treatments may lead to several skin reactions, including: 1) dryness and irritation, 2) pigment changes, 3)rashes, and 4) photosensitivity.
How does radiation therapy affect skin?
Radiation therapy directly targets cancer cells. However, the surrounding skin is often exposed to the radiation treatment as well. As a result, radiation treatment causes dramatic changes in the skin, including: 1) irritation, 2) redness, 3) pain, and 4) swelling. These symptoms can become more pronounced as radiation treatment progresses. Changes of your skin with radiation are permanent and at times progressive. These changes can be improved with advanced technologies.
The good news? Modern science and technology continue to produce better products and treatments. Cancer does not have to affect your skin appearance. The doctors and skin care specialists on your cancer team can provide you with a skin care routine, comprised of highly effective medical grade products. Clinically validated, these products and treatments have been shown to produce immediate improvement in skin affected by radiation therapy, and to keep skin healthier during chemotherapy treatments. Start the battle before your treatments begin, and feel better.
In our office, we recommend a protocol that is medically based. This treatment has four components:
1) Gentle cleansing: Gentle, non alcoholic cleansers with tepid water are important. Hot water can increase blood flow, thereby causing irritation and dryness.
2) Medical-grade, clinically validated creams and serums: Treatment is based on careful skin analysis and designed to help feed nutrients to your skin that may have become depleted with cancer therapy.
3) Moisturizing cream: Dryness is a very common symptom. We recommend a combination of moisturizers depending on skin type. Liberal application morning, night, and as needed, is helpful and soothing.
4) Sunscreen: During cancer treatment, your skin may become more sensitive to the sun, resulting in dark spots or skin cancers. To protect your skin against UVA and UVB rays, always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. As in the other products, ingredients are important. We choose sunscreens that have been vigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. Apply it every day, regardless of the weather. UVA rays are strong, and can even penetrate through windows.
In addition, we offer a soothing and hydrating medical-grade facial designed specifically for cancer patients. It feels wonderful, and helps the products to work better. This is very important in those of you who have been radiated as radiation can make your skin more vulnerable to damage from UV rays.
Most importantly, remember to be good to yourself. When you look better, you feel better. Treat yourself to a medical-grade facial, or have a trained professional evaluate and monitor your skin. Because it takes time for skin to adjust, many patients continue seeing their skin care professional even after they have finished their cancer treatments.
For more information and to get started, contact the Society of Plastic Surgical Skin Care Specialists (SPSSCS) at www.spsscs.org. Have your trained medical aesthetician or nurse skin care specialist support you on your journey. A positive attitude and self-confidence are strong weapons in this battle. We have the tools to help you.