Chemotherapy and your nails
Nails are prone to problems as a result of anti-cancer treatments. In fact, it is the second most important unanticipated side effect reported by patients. Nail problems can occur more often with certain types of medicines, especially taxane chemotherapies (paclitaxel and docetaxel) and many of the new biological treatments.
Some of these side effects are a nuisance or affect the cosmetic appearance of the nail whereas others can be more severe and require treatment. Often daily activities are affected and many people say their quality of life is impacted.
Nail changes are usually temporary and may improve after treatment is finished. However, because nails grow slowly, it may take months for them to return to normal. So it makes sense to prevent chemotherapy nail side effects before they happen or as soon as they arise.
How nails are affected by treatments
The type of nail changes depend on the medicine that is given and the duration of treatment. Some changes are mild and only affect the appearance of the nail while others can cause discomfort or pain. Nail brittleness is the most common side effect that can be caused by any chemotherapy or after stem cell transplants.
If the nail matrix (see illustration) is affected nails will be brittle and have grooves, ridges or discolouration which can be white or dark.
Nail bed problems result in pain under the nail; red, purple, or green discolouration, with separation or lifting of the nail; and possibly even infections.
When nail folds are affected there is pain, redness and swelling. Skin infections (paronychia) around or under the nail can also occur. Sometimes, nail infections are first noticed when the skin around the nails becomes red and swells due to excess fluid. These infections can cause the affected nail to become sore and tender, making it difficult to to perform daily activities. Be sure to inform your healthcare team at the first signs of problems.
In most people, nail changes caused by anti-cancer therapies begin within two or three months of starting treatment and improve within a few months afterwards. If you experience nail changes, it’s important to remember that they are a temporary, reversible reaction to your cancer treatment.
Part of nail affected
|Nail matrix||Grooves, ridges, white lines and brittle nails|
|Nail bed||Brown or white discolouration, lifting or loss and infections (paronychia)|
|Folds or cuticles||Inflammation, infections, separation and pain|
Which anti-cancer treatments may cause the most nail problems?
lthough any chemotherapy can affect the nails, some of the biological therapies (cetuximab, erlotinib, lapatinib, panitumumab) as well as some conventional chemotherapies (paclitaxel and docetaxel- Taxane group) tend to cause more side effects in the nails.
One study with docetaxel found that nail changes occurred in about 80 percent of people, with up to 30% having tenderness or infections that limited their daily activities. The Taxane group appear to cause nail changes more often than other types of chemotherapy, but we have also had positive patient feedback using OnicoLife with tamoxifen treatment.
OnicoLife Drops – Reviews and comments
No nail varnish
Rosie M – :
Hello Ladies. I have just finished my FEC-T treatment – I had my last chemo five days ago on Monday 15th Sept. Before I started, I was recommended OnicoLife from mosaiclife.co.uk. Before my first chemo I took all varnish off my toes and fingernails and this is the only product I have put on them – twice a day every day.
I don’t want to speak too soon because I know that the nails can be the last thing to go after the final docetaxel, but so far my nails are doing OK and I have had no pain or loss, and only very minor discolourment and ridging. They look almost normal and I have worn flip-flops for most of the summer. I’m hoping I wont have nail problems during this last cycle, but if I do at least I have managed to hold on to them for as long as possible.
Hope this helps and good luck to all of you with your chemos xx
I am very satisfied with this product. A couple of my fingernails were starting to loosen, and I was wearing plasters all the time to protect them from getting caught and tearing off. After a week of using the drops I noticed a difference, and after two weeks was able to reduce applying two drops per nail three times a day to one drop, twice a day.
Pity that my healthcare team didn’t tell me about these drops at an earlier stage, but I supose they didn’t know, as they don’t need to go searching on the internet for helpful remedies.
I didn’t use the onicolife as regularly as I should’ve done. This was mainly due to feeling so horrible, it just wasn’t on my mind I don’t think. However, I did try to put it on most nights before bed. It’s really light and not ‘oily’ as I was expecting it to be. You only need a tiny wee bit as it goes a long way.
"I feel the drops have really helped"
I finished chemo in September and my nails began to deteriorate AFTER treatment had finished. No professional could suggest anything (other than cover with nail varnish!).
I have always had very strong nails, but they became detached from the nail bed at the top of each nail. They became very tender and very ridged (horizontally). BUT now they have grown back to the top and are no longer tender. I feel the drops have really helped.
Tamoxifen- Helen Eastleigh September 2015
I just wanted to give you some feedback on OnicoLife and how it has transformed my nails!
Since starting Tamoxifen, my nails have gone from being strong and healthy to weak, thin, flaky and brittle. Despite religiously massaging them every night with oils, applying strengthening treatments etc etc I resigned myself to the fact that they will be like this for the duration of being on the drug. However, after a bit of research on the internet I found OnicoLife and have been using it for the last 6 weeks. The difference in my nails is incredible. Whilst they are not as strong as before, they are not peeling and are actually growing without breaking off straight away and are definitely thicker.Helen, Eastleigh
Tracey, Southend, July 2015
My nails are doing really well at the moment thanks, just got 2 more sessions left then all done. So many people have commented on how healthy my nails are and are in better condition than when I started treatment.Tracey, Southend
Tips for looking after your nails
If you choose not to try Onicolife drops here are some other ways you can help your nails during treatment…
- Use clear nail polish to strengthen the nail and avoid nail products with harmful chemicals (like toluene or formaldehyde)
- Dark nail polish can help if nails are discoloured. Try to use water based polishes, as they contain less harmful chemicals
- Increase intake of dietary iron and reduce caffeine. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter supplements or medications as these can interfere with cancer treatment
- Avoid harsh soaps and detergents
- Wear cotton socks to help absorb dampness which may avoid fungal nail infections and athlete’s foot