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Outer Layer


Web MD - The first time I met Chanel, being treated for lung cancer, she was so well put-together: stylishly dressed, face full of makeup, perfumed and moisturized. During examination, she revealed to me how much she loved her scent and how it provided her husband with a sense of security, knowing she was nearby. Before leaving the appointment, we had a lengthy talk about the potential side effects associated with radiation treatment. When I told her she'd have to put her favorite beauty products away until finishing treatment, she said, "that's like leaving the house naked every day!"

You too may have a favorite scented soap, cream, or perfume that you apply daily, but these should all be avoided during treatment, as they create a potential risk for a skin reaction. If you feel unable to survive without them, I recommend use only after daily treatment, avoiding the treatment area completely when applying, and washing it off or bathing prior to therapy.

Skin irritation will likely occur at some point during treatment; the size of skin reaction is related to the size of the treatment area. You may notice redness to darkening in the color of your skin, dryness, chapping, and/or blisters in the treatment area. The change of skin color may be temporary, fading a month or two after completing your radiation therapy. Some darkening of the skin may remain permanently. The skin exposed to radiation may itch, but it's essential not to scratch — you may break skin in the treatment area, affecting the course of treatment.

Regardless of the reaction you have, it's essential to report the details to your nurse, radiation therapist, and radiation oncologist. Your treatment team will provide you with medical moisturizer, if necessary. Some skin responses may require a pause in treatment or lowered daily radiation dosage with additional treatment sessions, while some may require special ointments, dressings, or antibiotics.

Here are some important points to remember regarding your radiation therapy:

  • All surgical wounds should be healed prior to the first treatment
  • Use plain soap without dyes, moisturizers, or perfumes
  • Avoid using soap in the treatment area
  • Avoid wearing makeup if receiving radiation to your neck or face
  • Keep your skin dry, but avoid wearing powders
  • Use an electric razor instead of wet shaving
  • Avoid sunlight exposure to the treatment area

Keep in mind that ink marks, stickers or permanent tattoos (pin-point dots) may be placed at the treatment site so the same location receives an appropriate dose of radiation with each treatment session. It's important not to wash or pull the stickers off — avoiding soap on those spots in addition to patting them dry with a towel after bathing can prevent them from falling off.

Once you've completed treatment, you can return to using your pre-treatment soap products and wearing your favorite creams, perfumes, and make-up!

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