How to Save Your Skin During Radiotherapy
Radiotherapy takes its toll on skin, it can burn it, leading to peeling skin, blisters and pain after so many rounds of radiotherapy. I was not directed to apply any lotions on my skin after each radiotherapy session but I knew from my own knowledge, and friends and family who had had radiotherapy, that there are things to do that will help minimise the damage.
And in case you are wondering if these are medically approved, well put it this way, as soon as I told my Doctor in the radiotherapy ward what I was applying, and when I was applying it, he wholeheartedly agreed. I often find this is the way with Cancer medical staff they won’t volunteer the information at the front end but when you put it to them they know all about it and will know if it will work perfectly well alongside the radiotherapy treatment. All you need to do is ask them, which I recommend you do, if you like the two suggestions I am making in this article.
Most of us know the healing power of Aloe Vera for regular burns and scalds. You might even have a plant in the kitchen in the eventuality of there being a hot mishap in the kitchen. Fortunately, regular health food shops, such as Holland and Barrett in the UK and Ireland, stock useful tubes of it. A scientific study has shown that Aloe Vera really helps, in particular with radiation dermatitis which can flare up when there is a long radiation treatment plan over 4 weeks (I had 6 weeks) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3728063/. I used the organic 99.9% Aloe Vera gel from Holland and Barrett, which my lovely Mum kindly gifted to me in a huge care pack she sent me at the start of my Cancer treatment, she herself had treatment for breast cancer over a decade ago and used the same gel.
As soon as you get into the changing room, after the radiotherapy application, squeeze a liberal amount of gel, enough to fully cover the area being treated with radiotherapy, onto your hand and apply gently. Don’t rub in hard, just gently stroke it over the treated area and cover with a soft garment. I had treatment to the breast and chest area and I found my bra and a soft cotton t-shirt sufficiently helped the Aloe Vera stay in place on the breast. Do this after every radiotherapy application and for a week after the final application to help the area heal faster.
Side note: Aloe Vera gel can be a bit sticky so when removing a bra or other garment make sure to remove it slowly.
I am a hobby certified herbalist and grow my own Calendula in the garden. I made my own oil in advance of my radiotherapy but you can buy this oil online. Calendula oil has been found to be even more effective than Aloe Vera for treating skin during radiotherapy. But because it is not as famous as Aloe Vera it may be that your Doctor might not have heard of it. Mine did know and approved of it. Here is a great link for using Calendula oil during Radiotherapy, written by a radiotherapist Doctor.
If it is pre-mixed with a carrier base oil such as Almond oil or Olive oil such as this product you can apply a small amount onto the area treated with radiotherapy, a small amount of oil goes a long way. Likewise, with the cream version, apply a small amount and rub in very gently all over the area. I used my oil twice a day after the radiotherapy, my radiotherapy was first thing in the morning. Do not apply it before the radiotherapy. Last thing at night is an excellent time for application so it gets all night to soak into the skin and heal it.
You can continue using the oil once a day, after the end of treatment, until the area heals. Calendula oil/cream is fantastic on scars too, once the skin has closed and sealed after an operation then this is a good time to apply oil but check with your surgeon as to the best time to commence application.
Do not use Calendula oil if:
· You are allergic to Asteraceae/Compositae (Daisy family) plants
· If you are pregnant or breast feeding (no scientific studies have been conducted for this scenario)
With these two majestic and natural products you ought to get through your radiotherapy with less peeling, blistering and burning and your skin will thank you for it.
I offer a great service in my CBT Cancer therapy to those with Cancer and for Carers, as I was a Carer myself once as well as being a Cancer survivor and understand both sides of the story really well. I also love to help people get through their treatment journeys and out the other side. I use Cognitive Behavioural techniques to provide you with great coping mechanisms as well as coaching in communication skills and actions if needed. Contact me for more information. All my therapy sessions are conducted by Skype which makes my therapy accessible wherever you are in the world.