Caring for you skin during radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Skin is the human body’s largest organ and is very sensitive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy processes. Fortunately skin damage can be lowered significantly if it is regularly maintained and prepared for treatment. Proper skincare will not only improve the feel and appearance of your skin but can be crucial to the effectiveness of your treatment.
Clinicians report that on many occasions improper skin care has lead to painful and raw skin that has required recovery time and delayed treatment as a result.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy affect your skin in different ways. Chemotherapy drugs can cause dryness, discolouration and rashes so a good daily skin care regime will be useful during treatment. Radiotherapy is slightly different in that the radio beam must pass directly through the skin to reach any problem areas. Clinicians therefore recommend that patients take extra steps to ensure their skin is as prepared as it can be to minimise side effects.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy affect your skin in different ways. Chemotherapy drugs can cause dryness, discolouration and rashes so a good daily skin care regime will be useful during treatment.
Radiotherapy is slightly different in that the radio beam must pass directly through the skin to reach any problem areas. Clinicians therefore recommend that patients take extra steps to ensure their skin is as prepared as it can be to minimise side effects.
Radiotherapy – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy means the use of radiation, usually X-rays, to treat illness. X-rays were discovered in 1895 and since then radiation has been used in medicine for diagnosis and investigation (X-rays) and treatment (radiotherapy).
About 4 out of 10 people with cancer (40%) have radiotherapy as part of their treatment. It can be given in various ways
- From outside the body as external radiotherapy, using X-rays, cobalt irradiation, electrons, and more rarely other particles such as protons
- From within the body as internal radiotherapy, by drinking a liquid that is taken up by cancer cells or by putting radioactive material in, or close to, the tumour
How does Radiotherapy work?
Radiotherapy destroys the cancer cells in the treated area by damaging the DNA within these cells. Although normal cells are also affected by radiation, they are better at repairing themselves than the cancer cells.
You usually have radiotherapy as a series of treatments over a number of days or weeks. Each treatment is known as a fraction. Fractions are usually given once a day from Monday to Friday with a rest at the weekend to help normal cells recover. Healthy cells that are damaged are often replaced as part of the bodies’ repair systems. This depends on the type of cell and the dose of radiotherapy. But if cells can’t be replaced, side effects can sometimes be permanent.
The skin is at particular risk during radiotherapy.
How will my skin be affected by Radiotherapy?
More than 85% of patients treated with radiotherapy will experience a skin reaction ranging from mild to severe. The severity will vary greatly from one person to another depending on your skin type, the area being treated and the amount of radiation being given.
The most common reactions you may experience include redness, swelling, itching and tenderness of the skin. Skin damage usually shows after 10-14 days following the start of treatment. Your skin will return to normal several weeks after radiotherapy finishes.
Using the MosaicLife specialist skincare products during radiotherapy will help to minimise skin reactions and reduce the impact of your treatment.
Many patients say maintaining their quality of life during radiotherapy is essential to them. You can take control of side effects and make your journey through radiotherapy much more comfortable.
Chemotherapy – Frequently Asked Questions
What is chemotherapy?
What is chemotherapy
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic means toxic to cells. Chemotherapy drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide but they also affect normal cells.
Sometimes chemotherapy is used alone to treat some types of cancer. But often it’s used with other treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, or other anti-cancer drugs such as targeted or biological therapies.
Not all cancers are treated with the same chemotherapy drugs or in the same way. There are many different chemotherapy drugs and new drugs are being developed all the time. You may have one drug or a combination of different drugs.
Other anti-cancer drugs
Other anti-cancer drugs are used to treat cancer but they’re not usually known as chemotherapy. For example, newer drugs called targeted treatments or biological therapies are directed at certain parts of the cancer cells and work differently to chemotherapy. These newer drugs can cause side effects which affect your skin and nails in particular
The MosaicLife products will help to minimise these side effects during treatment. Many patients say that maintaining their quality of life is very important to them as they go through chemotherapy. Being proactive and taking control of side effects can make your journey through treatment much more comfortable.
What are the side effects of Chemotherapy?
Side effects of chemotherapy
The side effects you get will depend on the chemotherapy drugs you’re having. Different drugs cause different side effects. Some side effects are mild and easily treated. Others can be harder to manage but can often be reduced or helped in some way.
If you’re having a single drug you won’t usually have as many side effects as someone having a combination of drugs.
The main areas of your body that may be affected by chemotherapy are where there’s a high turnover of normal cells, such as the:
- bone marrow (where blood cells are made)
- digestive system
- lining of your mouth
- hair follicles (where hair grows from)
Most side effects are short term and usually stop or gradually go away when chemotherapy is over.
How will my skin be affected by Chemotherapy?
Many patients treated with chemotherapy will experience a skin reaction ranging from mild to severe. The severity will vary greatly from one person to another depending on your skin type and the type of chemotherapy given.
The most common reactions you may experience include dryness, redness, swelling, itching and tenderness of the skin.
Skin damage usually shows after 5-10 days following the start of treatment. Your skin will return to normal several weeks after chemotherapy finishes.
Using the MosaicLife specialist skincare products during chemotherapy will help to minimise skin reactions and make your treatment more comfortable.