Your oncologist has prescribed radiation treatments in your battle against breast cancer. Maybe you’ve been receiving treatment already. Or perhaps you have long since finished, yet still have lingering side effects. One of the most common side effects is radiation dermatitis, sometimes referred to as radiation burn. What is it and how can you manage this side effect?
Understanding Radiation Dermatitis
Understanding this common side effect, especially before you begin radiation, will help you feel mentally and emotionally better prepared to mitigate it. Radiation dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes red and irritated; symptoms may include dryness, itching, pain, peeling, blistering, swelling and possibly a rash. Many patients liken it to a sunburn.
Radiation dermatitis often appears gradually over the course of the radiation treatment. And while it may linger for a couple of weeks after treatment ends, it does resolve fully for most patients. However, some patients continue to experience skin discoloration or irritation for years after treatment is completed.
Radiation burns are usually more pronounced in areas where skin touches skin, such as the armpits or the areas under the breasts. In other words, the very spots where you are receiving treatment for breast cancer. The good news is there is much that can be done to ease discomfort.
Treating Radiation Burns
You and your oncologist both know how much your mental and emotional well-being matter, especially when you’re fighting for your life. And while it may be easy to dismiss this side effect as minor, it matters. Feeling as good as possible is important to your positive outlook and daily functioning. Ease the symptoms by:
- Moisturizing. Keep the affected skin moisturized with fragrance- and dye-free ointments.
- Dressing comfortably. Wear loose-fitting, natural fibers like cotton that breathe and cause less irritation against sensitive skin. Avoid underwires.
- Not Hot. Use warm water instead of hot when bathing or showering.
- Cool it. Cool air from a fan or hair dryer (on the “no heat” setting) may provide relief.
- Reduce skin-on-skin. To minimize irritation from skin on skin, keep your arms away from your body as much as possible. If you have larger breasts, place a soft piece of flannel, cotton or a washcloth underneath and between your breasts.
- Cornstarch. Dusting under and around the breasts and skin folds around the armpits with cornstarch reduces friction and absorbs moisture. (Do not use talcum powder.)
- Avoid the sun. Areas being treated with radiation should be protected from exposure to the sun.
- Don’t pick. Yes, the skin may blister and peel. But don’t pick at it. The old skin is protecting the new skin as it grows.
Support for Your Journey
We know radiation burns are uncomfortable and frustrating. Contact the team at Pretty in Pink Boutique to find soft, comfortable camisoles or other garments to help relieve and reduce your discomfort. Contact us at 615-777-7465 or email us at [email protected] to schedule your appointment.