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Skin Radiation Therapy Care

Skin Reactions

Skin reactions from radiation therapy are temporary. Reactions generally begin two weeks after treatment has started. Peak reactions may continue for two weeks after treatment ends and then will begin to heal and subside.  The following instructions apply only to the skin in the treatment area.

Wash the skin in the treatment area gently with lukewarm water. Blot your skin with a soft towel. You may use a mild soap, such as Ivory, Dove or Basis. Avoid soaps that contain perfumes or irritants. These can dry your skin. Do not apply any lotions, perfumes, deodorants or powders to the treatment area. These products can be irritating to the skin and cause a more severe reaction. If you require a lotion to moisturize dry skin, consult your nurse or doctor.

If you normally use powder and would like to continue using it during treatment, use a light dusting of cornstarch on the treated area. Do not rub, scrub or scratch the skin in the treatment area. Your skin will be drier than usual, may peel and may be easily irritated. If your skin becomes dry or itchy, tell your nurse. Check with your nurse or doctor first if you need to shave in the treatment area. If they allow you to do so, use an electric razor until any skin reaction has disappeared.

Do not use hot water bottles, heating lights, electric heating pads or hot packs on the treated area. Keep the treated area out of the sun. Avoid sunburn throughout your treatment. Continue to avoid sunburns for at least one year after treatments have ended by using a sun blocking lotion with sun protection factor of 20 or greater, or cover the area with clothing.

Avoid swimming and using hot tubs during radiation treatments and until any skin reaction you may experience has gone away.  If you develop a skin reaction, report it to your nurse or doctor. Keep your skin clean, dry and open to air as much as possible. Wear only loose fitting cotton clothing over the treatment area to prevent further irritation.

Give special attention to areas where there are folds of skin. Skin in these areas is more likely to peel and become sore. Keep these areas clean and dry. If the skin in the treatment area becomes moist, sticky or blistered, notify your nurse or doctor.