Taking It Personally
March 07, 2014 – Laura Beil
Advocacy in Action
March 08, 2014 – Jane Hill
Can a Pill Prevent Cancer?
March 08, 2014 – Erik Ness
New Requirements for Patients and Survivors Needs
March 08, 2014 – Katy Human
How Survivors Can Take Action
March 08, 2014
Promises to Keep
March 06, 2014 – Tracy Stewart
Aiming to Improve Quality of Cancer Care
March 06, 2014 – Shelley Fuld Nasso
Confirmation of Lycopene's Benefits Remains Elusive
March 06, 2014 – Deborah Tolmach Sugerman
Taking Immune Action Against Lung Cancer
March 08, 2014 – Heather L. Van Epps, PhD
Pipeline
March 08, 2014 – Lindsay Ray
Preserving Security with Electronic Health Portals
March 06, 2014 – Charlotte Huff
The "To Do" List to Pass On to Well-Meaning Friends
March 08, 2014 – Don Vaughan
Choosing Quality Care
March 08, 2014 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Mobile App Delivers Helpful Tips to Minimize Side Effects
March 08, 2014
Legislations Could Benefit Family Caregivers
March 08, 2014 – Lena Huang
Exercise Improves Joint Pain Associated with Aromatase Inhibitors
March 08, 2014 – Jon Garinn
Moving Beyond Cancer to Wellness
March 08, 2014
Breast Cancer Prevention Study Focuses on Anti-Hormone Therapy
March 08, 2014 – Jon Garinn
Correspondent Amy Robach Receives Treatment
February 28, 2014 – Lindsay Ray
No Link Between Fertility Treatment and Overall Risk of Childhood Cancer
March 07, 2014 – Katherine Lagomarsino
Alzheimer's Disease and Cancer
March 06, 2014 – Sonya Collins
Research Updates
February 28, 2014 – Elizabeth Whittington
Genetics Leading the Way in Lung Cancer Treatment
March 05, 2014 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Letters From Readers
March 08, 2014
For Many, Caregiving Leads to Advocacy
March 07, 2014 – Jane Hill
Calming Chronic Inflammation
March 07, 2014 – Erik Ness
Making the Most Out of Your Patient Portal
March 07, 2014 – Charlotte Huff
Disclosing a Cancer Diagnosis Takes Time and Tact
March 05, 2014 – Don Vaughan
National Guidelines Aim to Make Life Better After Cancer
March 07, 2014 – Katy Human
Research Reveals New Frontiers in Lung Cancer
March 06, 2014 – Heather L. Van Epps, PhD
Biomarkers Help Patients Make Better Medical Decisions
March 06, 2014 – Laura Beil
Taking It Personally
March 07, 2014 – Laura Beil
Advocacy in Action
March 08, 2014 – Jane Hill
Can a Pill Prevent Cancer?
March 08, 2014 – Erik Ness
New Requirements for Patients and Survivors Needs
March 08, 2014 – Katy Human
How Survivors Can Take Action
March 08, 2014
Promises to Keep
March 06, 2014 – Tracy Stewart
Aiming to Improve Quality of Cancer Care
March 06, 2014 – Shelley Fuld Nasso
Confirmation of Lycopene's Benefits Remains Elusive
March 06, 2014 – Deborah Tolmach Sugerman
Taking Immune Action Against Lung Cancer
March 08, 2014 – Heather L. Van Epps, PhD
Pipeline
March 08, 2014 – Lindsay Ray
Preserving Security with Electronic Health Portals
March 06, 2014 – Charlotte Huff
The "To Do" List to Pass On to Well-Meaning Friends
March 08, 2014 – Don Vaughan
Choosing Quality Care
March 08, 2014 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Mobile App Delivers Helpful Tips to Minimize Side Effects
March 08, 2014
Legislations Could Benefit Family Caregivers
March 08, 2014 – Lena Huang
Exercise Improves Joint Pain Associated with Aromatase Inhibitors
March 08, 2014 – Jon Garinn
Moving Beyond Cancer to Wellness
March 08, 2014
Breast Cancer Prevention Study Focuses on Anti-Hormone Therapy
March 08, 2014 – Jon Garinn
Correspondent Amy Robach Receives Treatment
February 28, 2014 – Lindsay Ray
No Link Between Fertility Treatment and Overall Risk of Childhood Cancer
March 07, 2014 – Katherine Lagomarsino
Alzheimer's Disease and Cancer
March 06, 2014 – Sonya Collins
Research Updates
February 28, 2014 – Elizabeth Whittington
Genetics Leading the Way in Lung Cancer Treatment
March 05, 2014 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Letters From Readers
March 08, 2014
For Many, Caregiving Leads to Advocacy
March 07, 2014 – Jane Hill
Calming Chronic Inflammation
March 07, 2014 – Erik Ness
Making the Most Out of Your Patient Portal
March 07, 2014 – Charlotte Huff
Disclosing a Cancer Diagnosis Takes Time and Tact
March 05, 2014 – Don Vaughan
National Guidelines Aim to Make Life Better After Cancer
March 07, 2014 – Katy Human
Research Reveals New Frontiers in Lung Cancer
March 06, 2014 – Heather L. Van Epps, PhD
Biomarkers Help Patients Make Better Medical Decisions
March 06, 2014 – Laura Beil
The Priority List: A Teacher's Final Quest to Discover Life's Greatest Lessons
March 08, 2014
Currently Viewing
What to Do When Radiation Causes Skin Damage
March 07, 2014 – Lacey Meyer

What to Do When Radiation Causes Skin Damage

One of the most common side effects of radiation therapy is a skin condition called radiation dermatitis.

BY Lacey Meyer
PUBLISHED March 07, 2014

More than half of people with cancer will receive radiation therapy at some point during their cancer treatment. Radiation therapy is often delivered from a machine outside the body. One of the most common side effects is a skin condition called radiation dermatitis, which can range from a mild, red rash (erythema) and itchy, peeling or flaking skin (dry desquamation) to a more severe reaction with blisters and wet, peeling skin (moist desquamation).

CAUSE AND RISK FACTORS > Unfortunately, radiation injures or kills healthy cells as well as cancer cells in the treated area. Repeated radiation exposure causes an imbalance in tissue damage and repair so that exposed skin is damaged faster than it can repair itself. Treatment-related factors that increase the risk and severity of skin reactions include high daily and cumulative radiation doses, the type of beam used to deliver the radiation, a large treatment field, treatment to areas with skin folds (such as the head and neck, the groin or under the breast), and whether it was delivered with certain chemotherapies.

Moderate to severe reactions, such as moist desquamation and blistering, can occur toward the end of treatment, four to six weeks after treatment, or with a cumulative radiation dose of 45 to 60 Gray (Gy); a Gray is a measure of radiation dose.

MANAGEMENT > Radiation burns and skin irritation can interrupt treatment if not managed early and properly. Patients are advised to wear loose-fitting clothing, avoid fabrics that can cause itchiness and check with a healthcare provider before using lotions, perfumes or deodorants.

Gently washing the affected skin with lukewarm water and a mild soap is recommended as a practical step to prevent infection.

Creams: Calendula ointment and silver sulfadiazine cream are considered effective topical treatments. An herbal extract from the marigold plant, calendula has anti-inflammatory properties. A large, phase 3 study showed that topical calendula cream reduced pain, treatment interruptions and incidence of moderate skin reactions, such as severe redness and pain, during radiation therapy.

Silver sulfadiazine cream, an antibacterial agent, can be used for moist desquamation to reduce the risk of infection. Studies have also shown that, compared with no treatment at all, it helps to reduce the severity of radiation dermatitis.

Low-dose topical corticosteroids might help reduce irritation and itching, but they should be discontinued if moist desquamation occurs. Some studies have shown that they significantly reduce the severity of skin reactions, but no specific agent was shown to be superior.

In a small study of women receiving breast radiation, a commercially available barrier film reduced skin toxicities and itching. Hyaluronic acid is another topical cream that has shown some evidence of reducing the severity of skin reactions.

Dressings: For moist desquamation, special dressings, including hydrocolloid and hydrogel dressings, could be used to maintain a moist healing environment.

Small studies have shown that silver leaf nylon dressings can also help to reduce pain and slightly lessen the severity of reactions as well as accelerate healing. A meta-analysis published in Supportive Care in Cancer, however, determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend any particular type of dressing.

Be the first to discuss this article on CURE's forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.

Related Articles

1
×

Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!
×

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In