Skin side effects can occur with most cancer treatments. If your treatment plan is likely to cause skin side effects your healthcare team will be able to tell you what to expect and how best to manage any side effects that occur. Possible skin side effects include:
Skin side effects are common with radiotherapy treatment and usually develop after 3-4 weeks of treatment, if at all. They most often take the form of redness or soreness of the skin where radiotherapy beams enter and leave your body. Radiotherapy-related skin side effects are also affected by your skin type and the amount and type of radiotherapy you have. Your healthcare team will carry out regular reviews during your radiotherapy treatment, but you should let them know promptly if you notice any soreness or change sin skin colour in the treatment area between times. If your skin gets very sore, treatment may be delayed for a short time to allow the skin time to recover. Staff at the radiotherapy department will be able to give you advice on how to care for skin in areas at risk of side effects.
Biotherapy treatment can cause a range of skin side effects varying form a rash to acne-like eruptions or hand and foot syndrome. Sometimes rashes get severe enough than bumps merge and the skin appears red over a large area. This rash can be itchy painful or develop pustules (sores) that can become infected. It is important to let your healthcare team know promptly if you notice any skin side effects so that they can be treated before they become severe.
If you develop a severe or infected rash you may need treatment with steroids or antibiotics.
Chemotherapy treatment can also cause a range of skin side effects, which depend on the particular chemotherapy drug and dose prescribed. If you have a high dose chemotherapy you may be at risk of developing a condition called Graft vs host disease (GVHD) this can cause a number of different symptoms including an itchy and painful skin rash. Your healthcare team will be able to tell you what to expect with your treatment plan and how to prevent or manage any skin side effects that develop.
Some chemotherapy drugs may also affect your nails. They can become brittle and dry, grow more slowly, and develop ridges or splits. These side effects look unsightly but will usually grow out after your treatment has finished. Nail polish can disguise nail side effects but quick drying polishes can make dryness worse. Nail oils or moisturising creams may help if your nails are flaking, but it’s best to check with your healthcare team before using any over the counter oils or creams.
The skin side effects of cancer treatments can be troublesome. You can be and active partner by discussing any skin problems with your healthcare team as soon as you notice them. If you receive prompt advice or treatment on managing skin side effects, you may be able to prevent or reduce further problems.