JOPLIN, MO – Cancer can cause a plethora of side effects, including a skin reaction from radiation treatment or even the cancer itself.
The care, specifically for breast cancer, is outlined in this month’s Freeman Health Buddy Check.
“I usually tell everyone that it’s unpredictable. That’s the bottom line.” Says Dr. Chance Matthiesen, Freeman Radiation Oncologist.
Matthiesen says how the skin reacts to radiation treatment can differ from patient to patient.
“A rash is a very general term. And, certainly, for many women, a rash applies, because that might be all they experience, just some generalized redness.” Says Matthiesen.
For others, it can be similar to a bad burn with skin blistering, pain, peeling, and discomfort.
“Often, with certain breast cancers, the skin is at risk.” Says Matthiesen.
“The skin can be fragile in areas of radiation. It can look red due to dilated fine blood vessels on the skin.” Says Dr. Ahmed Badawi, Freeman Dermatologist.
The good news? Badawi says severe breast cancer related rashes are typically uncommon.
“Acute rashes, I tend not to see them as much as a dermatologist. The radiation oncologists are usually good at recognizing and treating those acute rashes.” Says Badawi.
“I’m able to see it once a week and we’re usually able to mitigate as we go through treatment.” Says Matthiesen.
Care for rashes or other skin reactions associated with radiation, or the cancer itself, is not very difficult.
“Recommend just general over-the-counter lotions and creams that are available at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS. Very inexpensive, and we instruct women to start putting them on a couple times a day.” Says Matthiesen.
“Washing the skin with a gentle soap and water. Soap-free cleanser, after radiation treatment, and sometimes using prophylactic topical steroids can help.” Says Badawi.
Plus, staying away from hot water, like in baths or hot tubs, as well as staying out of the sun, especially this time of year, will help with the skin’s tenderness.
“Even the summer in general, where people go outside, spend a weekend at the lake and often put on tank tops or clothing that can often expose a lot of sun. This can be extremely detrimental.” Says Matthiesen.
Thankfully, skin reactions after radiation are not as prevalent as they once were.
“Most of that’s attributed to good technology. A lot of it’s attributed to education. A lot of it’s just partnering with your physician and being transparent about what you’re doing, and what we can do to help you take care of yourself.” Says Matthiesen.