Radiation therapy is one of the important treatment options for curing breast cancer. Though it is simple and painless one of the most common temporary side effect is skin irritation.
Skin irritation induced by radiotherapy varies from patient to patient. It usually occurs in patients who received chemotherapy shortly before or during radiation therapy. It is also severe among women who have a prominent fold under the crease of the breast. The area under the breast and the underarm are the most common areas which sustain a skin reaction. Generally these reactions resolve within a few weeks of completing radiation therapy.
In some cases radiation oncologist gives the patient a one-week break halfway through the course of treatment, to reduce the severity of skin reactions. By the end of the treatment the severity of a skin reaction becomes more noticeable. Some of the common symptoms are faint pinkness of the skin, brisk redness, sun burnt sensation, dryness, itching, peeling, darkening like a suntan, blistering, and moist oozing. Sometimes doctors prescribe therapeutic creams. Women can avoid chafing the irradiated skin by going braless or by wearing a cotton sports bra without an underwire that fits well below the crease of the breast. Aerating the irradiated skin reduces the skin reactions.
Radiation oncologists have given a few guidelines which would reduce the skin reactions.
• Pat the skin dry and massage the prescribed anti-itch creams onto the affected area.
• Wear protective clothing to avoid sun exposure.
• Avoid tight fitting blouses and bras.
• Use lukewarm water and mild soap that is recommended by the radiation oncology team on the treated area.
• Avoid using ice packs, commercial deodorants and skin care products on the treated skin.
The patient has to remember that the skin reactions are the temporary side effect of radiotherapy. The important thing is that it is very beneficial and helps a patient lead a cancer-free life.
(Source: Foodconsumer.org, Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer: Coping with skin reactions, by Carol L. Kornmehl, M.D., FACRO)