With an abundance of experience in treating health challenged clients and those suffering from disease, the common uncertainty among clients is the lack of information given to them about what will happen to their skin once they begin treatment. While some are given minimal information, others are given inaccurate advice that encourages skin damage and mistreatment. Not everyone will experience skin conditions as a result of treatment, however, many will, which is why I offer speciality cancer skin management in Raby Bay.
In order to effectively understand the side effects of treatment, it’s important to first discuss what anti-cancer drug agents are being used to treat different types of cancer. These treatments fall into three categories, consisting of chemotherapy, biotherapy (also known as immunotherapy), and hormone therapy.
Chemotherapy is arguably the most well-known anticancer drug agent. As the name suggests, chemotherapy uses chemicals (also known as drug agents) as a form of treatment, and is more specifically referred to as cytotoxic drug treatment. Chemo drugs are used to stunt the growth of cancer cells, by killing the cells or not allowing them to divide[i]. However, as skin, hair, nails, lips and the digestive tract are also fast replicating cells, this form of treatment inevitably attacks them too, resulting in skin related issues.
Biotherapy, also known as immunotherapy, stimulates the body’s own immune system more effectively identify and kill cancer cells. This type of treatment uses substances from living organisms, some of which may naturally occur in then body or produced through science.
Just as the name suggests, hormone therapy involves the use of hormones as a form of cancer treatment. Through the effects and suppression of synthetic or naturally derived hormones, some forms of cancer can be treated if reliant on hormone growth.
Common Skin Conditions During Treatment
Due to the often unfamiliar or unnatural chemicals and hormones entering the body during cancer treatment, our body generally reacts by displaying signs of itchy, sensitive, UV sensitive, dry and sore skin. Among these common skin conditions experienced during cancer treatment include:
More commonly described as dry skin, the skin will feel rough, scaly, tight, flakey and often itchy. This skin condition is particularly common in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment as it interferes with the natural production and process of oil and sweat glands. In addition, anti-nausea drugs, dehydration and poor nutrition can also contribute.
Also known as itchy skin, this particular skin condition can best be described as an uncomfortable and tingling sensation over a short or prolonged period of time. Often this occurs when the body is unable to rid itself of certain toxins due to kidney or liver problems, or for those who experience irritable skin.
Certain rashes can be the result of a non-allergic reaction that is caused by a particular drug, including hives, which occur within a 36-hour window since exposure to the drug.
An allergic reaction has a different appearance to that of a temporary non-allergic reaction, in that it is often characterised by redness, inflammation, sores, irritation, itching and shortness of breath. It is advised to seek immediate medical attention should these symptoms arise, as it could be the sign of something more serious.
Compromised Skin Barrier Function
The unfortunate reality of undergoing chemotherapy treatment is that it will inevitably reduce and/or impair your barrier function. Simply put, this means your body will be more susceptible to experiencing skin sensitivities, such as dryness, itching, rashes, and often fissures. While dependent on the drug regime being used, one may also experience flushing of the skin.
Phototoxicity and sunburn are common occurrences and risks when undergoing cancer treatment. To avoid serious damage, sunscreen, a full brim hat and protective clothing is mandatory while the patient is exposed to the sun. To relieve sunburn, we highly recommend using cool compresses and wet dressing, while also rubbing freshly picked aloe vera gel to the affected area.
This refers to a darkening in the skin, which generally comes in two forms – a plaque of dark colour that is either localised or widespread over a vast surface on the body. While there are many reasons this can occur, it is often related to a phototoxic reaction on the skin, whereby the skin surface exposed to light may change colour. Some anticancer drugs are known to encourage changes in the nails, and a darkening of the tongue, gums and the skin over the finger joints.
Other skin conditions include Steven–Johnson Syndrome is a very severe, though uncommon skin reaction that includes flu-like symptoms with a varied pattern of skin reactions that can include blistering and erosions.
Herpes zoster (shingles) can occur more frequently with people who have a weak immune system. The skin lesions manifest as fluid-filled blisters which then crust, scab and heal. These lesions are usually found on the trunk of the body and can appear on the face.
So, what does this mean for your skin? While you’re up against many nasty skin irregularities during cancer treatment due to a weakened immune system, there is certainly precautions you can take to ensure the longevity and health of your body’s biggest organ, your much-beloved skin. As a cancer skin management specialist in Raby Bay, I can tell you now that this means we need to absolutely ensure we maintain your skin barrier function pre, during and post medical treatments. This is done through corneotherapy practices, both in-clinic and at home, through using safe and chemical free skincare products.
You don’t have to go through this journey alone. At Paula Cliffin Skin, I specialise in corneotherapy and endeavour to be part of your journey back to good health, by offering you real knowledge and advice and skin management plans tailored to your specific medication, skin type and needs. For more information on my cancer skin management service in Raby Bay, please call me today on 0438 735 990 or simply make a booking online today.
[ii] Oncology Esthetics. A Practitioner’s Guide by Morag Currin LE, CLMT. Chapter 3, Page 44, Anticancer Drug Agents
[iv] Radiation Recall Dermatitis: case report and review of the literature. Current Oncology Journal. Accessed February 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2259426/
Dermal Facialist/Practising Corneotherapist
Certified in Oncology Aesthetics (COA)
Phone: 0438 735 990 (Appointment Only)