Skin Care

Your skin in the treatment area may become red, irritated, sunburned, or tanned after a few weeks of therapy. It is important to notify your doctor or nurse of any skin changes at your next appointment. They can suggest measures to relieve your discomfort and possibly minimize further irritation. The majority of skin reactions to radiation therapy go away a few weeks after treatment is completed. In some cases, though, the treated skin will remain slightly darker than it was before and it may continue to be more sensitive to sun exposure.

Skin in the area where you are receiving radiation therapy needs to be treated with gentle care. During your course of radiation treatment, please follow these guidelines:

  • Keep the treated area dry & free from irritation. Cornstarch, gently patted on with a powder puff, will keep the skin dry.
  • Do not wash the treated area until your technologist tells you to. When permitted, wash the treated skin gently, using a mild soap and rinse well before patting dry. Always use lukewarm water.
  • Do not remove any lines or ink marks on your skin until the technologist or doctor tells you to.
  • Be aware that the marks placed on your skin may stain your clothing.
  • Avoid harsh fabrics over the treatment area such as wool, corduroy, or starched cloth. Lightweight cotton is recommended.
  • not wear clothing that is tight or may cause friction by rubbing over the treated skin.
  • Women with breast cancer should avoid bras that rub below the breast.
  • Avoid irritating the treatment area by using cosmetics, perfumes, colognes, pre or after shave products, topical medications, deodorants, creams, lotions, Vaseline-like products, or powders. Many skin products can leave a coating on the skin that may cause an irritation and interfere with your treatment.
  • Do not apply any skin lotions within 2 hours of a treatment.
  • Do not use heating pads or hot-water bottles on treated skin.
  • Avoid ice-packs and exposure to extreme cold weather.
  • Men should use an electric razor when shaving if they are receiving treatment to the face and/or neck area. Do not use aftershave.
  • If treated area becomes reddened or tender, tell your doctor, nurse or radiation therapist. They will recommend something for the discomfort.
  • Avoid exposing the area to the sun during treatment and for at least 1 year after your treatment is completed.
  • If you expect to be in the sun for more than a few minutes, wear protective clothing (such as a hat with a broad brim and shirt with long sleeves) and use a sunscreen. Ask your doctor or nurse about using sunscreen lotions of SPF 15 or higher.
  • Do not give yourself or allow anyone else to give you any shots in the treatment area.
  • Unless necessary, do not use adhesive tape, including band aids and paper tape, on the treated area.
  • Breast cancer patients should not use deodorant if the axilla is in the treatment field. Create your own non-irritating deodorant: 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup of corn starch mixed together and applied with cotton balls.
  • Do not swim in salt water, lakes, pools or ponds.
  • Always report any discomforts or concerns to the Radiation Therapy Staff.

The Most Common Types of Skin Reactions

  • Redness
  • Change in skin color
  • Hair loss
  • Flaking or peeling
  • Ulceration
  • Edema
  • Scarring
  • Loss of perspiration
  • Change in superficial blood vessels