Skin care guidelines for oncologic patients receiving radiotherapy
Radiotherapy is a widely used technique in oncology. Approximately 50% of patients receive this type of treatment, either as a single treatment or in combination.
Understanding how it works and its objectives is key to understanding its side effects and the recommendations for coping with it in the best possible way. Let’s take a closer look!
What is radiotherapy?
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy particles or waves, such as X-rays or gamma rays, to kill or damage cancer cells. This high-energy radiation is called ionizing radiation because it creates electrically charged particles (ions) in the cells of the tissues it passes through.
Ionizing radiation affects actively dividing cells by causing small breaks in their DNA. These breaks prevent the cells from growing and dividing and cause their death. Similarly, it also affects, to a lesser extent, the dividing cells of normal tissues. Damage to normal cells causes unwanted side effects. Radiation therapy always balances destroying cancer cells and minimizing damage to normal cells. Since it is generally a locally applied treatment, it only affects the treated part of the body.
Radiation therapy can be used before surgery (neoadjuvant) to reduce the size of the tumor before it or after surgery (adjuvant) to help prevent the cancer from returning. Sometimes it can be used to pre-emptively treat areas where metastases recur to destroy any cancer cells that have traveled to that area giving rise to a tumor.
Radiotherapy side effects
Damage to non-cancerous cells can cause side effects during and after radiation therapy. Many of them can be treated or prevented, and most go away after treatment. They vary from person to person and depend on factors such as the part of the body being treated and the type of treatment.
Some of the side effects that may appear are the following:
- Skin damage.
- Generalized tiredness.
- Hair loss. Unlike chemotherapy, it only affects the area being treated.
- Discomfort. This is more likely to occur if the treatment area is near the stomach or the brain is being treated.
- Difficulty eating and drinking. Radiation therapy can cause loss of appetite and discomfort when swallowing.
- Diarrhea. It usually occurs when the treated area is near the abdomen or pelvis.
- Joint and muscle stiffness.
- Sexual and reproductive problems. Radiation therapy may cause loss of libido, vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, or infertility.
- Lymphedema, due to radiation damage to the lymphatic system.
How to take care of skin receiving radiotherapy?
The skin in the area where radiation therapy has been received is usually affected. Radiation therapy may cause pain, color changes (it may become red, lighter, or darker than its usual shade), dryness and itching, and even peeling and blistering.
The skin problems usually disappear 2 to 4 weeks after the end of the treatment. To reduce discomfort as much as possible, it is important to follow some skin care tips:
- Wash your skin every day with soap and warm water. After showering, gently pat the skin dry, rather than rubbing it.
- Always keep the skin moisturized by using moisturizing creams suitable for sensitive skin. Avoid ointments, lotions, and perfumed products.
- Avoid shaving the area, if possible, do not use lasers or depilatory creams.
- Avoid applying heat or cold.
- Wear loose clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton or silk, avoiding tight-fitting clothes in the affected area.
- Always use high-factor sunscreen (SPF 50 or higher) to protect the skin from the sun. As far as possible, try to cover the treated skin.
At Prospera Biotech we are committed to improving cancer patients’ quality of life. We seek to give visibility and solutions to the side effects, which can be more painful and uncomfortable than the disease itself.
For this reason, our team has developed a new formulation to take care of skin receiving radiotherapy. It has passed with excellent results the pilot safety and efficacy trial carried out at the General Hospital of Elche.
We hope it will be available very soon!
You can find Oncapsisens, a product suitable to take care of skin receiving chemotherapy treatment.
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Keywords: radiotherapy; cancer; skin; side effects; tips
- American Cancer Society (7th February 2019). Cómo se usa la radioterapia para tratar el cáncer. https://www.cancer.org/es/cancer/como-sobrellevar-el-cancer/tipos-de-tratamiento/radioterapia.html
- National Health Service (25th February 2020). Radiotherapy. Side effects. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/radiotherapy/