Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Skin care during radiation therapy

Skin care during radiation therapyUndergoing radiation therapy can be a traumatic experience, and the last thing you want is to compound your worries with anxiety about the burns you're about to sustain on your chest.  The deterioration of the tissue surrounding the breast is more destructive psychologically than any regular sunburn – because of the breasts' role as a signifier for a woman's sexuality, damaged skin on the breast can be associated with the deterioration of one's sexuality as well as their conceptions of their identity.  The stress caused by this coupled with the existing anxiety from the breast cancer itself can be enough to actually slow down your recovery, even opening oneself up to complications.  Therefore, it's a good idea to minimize the amount of damage done by the radiation as much as possible.

Although the burns from radiation therapy are similar to regular sunburns, they're different in the sense that radiation therapy is only gamma or x-rays instead of the full spectrum of light that gives you sunburn.  Because of this, treatment for radiation therapy differs slightly from a regular sunburn.

The first thing that you'd want to do after you begin radiation therapy is to keep the affected area clean and dry (don't use any lotions without first consulting your physician), washing it with lukewarm water (never hot or cold) so blisters or an infection do not form.  Look for places on the skin that are red and/or are swollen – these most likely are indicative of an infection, and will not only be painful, but can complicate things if you go on to get a mastectomy and breast implants to repair the excised tissue.  Try applying vitamin A or D to the area, and try wearing no bra and baggy clothes to reduce the amount of contact that could be irritating the skin.  If the problem persists, you can always see your physician for a topical cream or antibiotics.