Skin Care During Radiation Therapy
For a blessedly brief period in our lives, skin care during radiation therapy is an enormously important topic. There is huge variability in the extent of burning that women experience, related both to the skin itself and to the specifics of the treatment. Generally speaking, women with fair skin burn more, and surely women who are receiving chest wall radiation after a mastectomy (and without reconstruction) inevitably are more burned than women who are radiated to a breast.
Radiation was part of my treatment in 1993 for my first breast cancer, and I remember how badly burned I was by the final week or two of therapy. Part of the issue was my participation in a clinical trial that scheduled chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously. The research question was whether the active chemo drugs would make the radiation more effective. The results were never published, but if the burns on my skin were any indication, it worked.The good news about radiation skin burning is that it heals pretty quickly.
All radiation centers provide patients with lots of information about skin care. There are some variations in these recommendations, so anything you use should be first discussed with your radiation oncologist or nurse. This is an Italian study from Radiation Oncology. I give you the abstract and a link to read the whole thing if you are interested:
Preventing the acute skin side effects in patients treated with radiotherapy for breast cancer: the
use of corneometry in order to evaluate the protective effect of moisturizing creams
Rossella Di Franco1, Elena Sammarco2, Maria Grazia Calvanese1, Flora De Natale2, Sara Falivene1, Ada Di Lecce1,
Francesca Maria Giugliano3, Paola Murino4, Roberto Manzo4, Salvatore Cappabianca1, Paolo Muto3
and Vincenzo Ravo3*
Background and purpose: The purpose of this study was to add, to the objective evaluation, an instrumental
assessment of the skin damage induced by radiation therapy.
Materials and methods: A group of 100 patients affected by breast cancer was recruited in the study over one
year. Patients were divided into five groups of 20 patients. For each group it was prescribed a different topical
treatment. The following products were used: Betaglucan, sodium hyaluronate (NeovidermW), Vitis vinifera A. s-I-M.t- O.dij (IxodermW), Alga Atlantica plus Ethylbisiminomethylguaicolo and Manganese Cloruro (Radioskin1W) and Metal Esculetina plus Ginko Biloba and Aloe vera (Radioskin 2W); Natural triglycerides-fitosterols (XderitW); Selectiose plus thermal water of Avene (Trixera+W). All hydrating creams were applied twice a day starting 15 days before and one month after treatment with radiations. Before and during treatment patients underwent weekly skin assessments and corneometry to evaluate the symptoms related to skin toxicity and state of hydration. Evaluation of acute cutaneous toxicity was defined according to the RTOG scale.
Results: All patients completed radiotherapy; 72% of patients presented a G1 cutaneous toxicity, 18% developed a G2 cutaneous toxicity, 10% developed a G3 toxicity, no one presented G4 toxicity. The corneometry study confirmed the protective role of effective creams used in radiation therapy of breast cancer and showed its usefulness to identify radiation-induced dermatitis in a very early stage.
Conclusions: The preventive use of topic products reduces the incidence of skin side effects in patients treated with radiotherapy for breast cancer. An instrumental evaluation of skin hydration can help the radiation oncologist to use strategies that prevent the onset of toxicity of high degree. All moisturizing creams used in this study were equally valid in the treatment of skin damage induced by radiotherapy.