Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Skin Changes After Treatment

From the initial shock upon discovery to the relieved sigh upon treatment completion, surviving breast cancer is not an easy feat. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormonal therapy can all cause changes to your skin during and after treatment, from dryness to photosensitivity, these changes can take you by surprise. It’s important to note that any skin changes you experienced should be noted and told to your doctor.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month we at Five Dot Botanics have curated information dealing with therapy side effects, so you can not only spot your skin changes, but you can also go about dealing with them to minimise irritation and pain.


What skin changes can occur during and after treatment?

Like all forms of radiation and hormonal therapy, side effects are bound to occur in one form or another, with skin changes being one of the most common and early ones.

From xerosis (dry skin) to hyperpigmentation, the type of  treatment can lead to different skin issues with some overlapping.

Radiotherapy for example can increase the chances of hyperpigmentation (areas of skin getting darker than the surrounding skin), pruritus (itchy skin) and dermatitis (skin inflammation and irritation). Chemotherapy also can lead to the same skin issues as radiotherapy, in addition to the chances of skin spots akin to acne, photosensitivity and hand-foot syndrome (the palms and soles become red and sore). Hormonal therapy while rarely leading to skin spots can still lead to the same issues as radiotherapy.

Some of these skin changes like hand-foot syndrome and dermatitis are temporary while others like hyperpigmentation may be permanent.


What are some tips for skin changes?

With most skin side-effects of cancer treatment, there are ways to alleviate them, from simply moisturising to using sunscreen, below are a few tips for some of the skin changes you or a loved one may experience during and after treatment:

Photosensitivity 

When skin becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight, the best cause of action is sunscreen application with at least an SPF of 30, protecting your skin at its most vulnerable.

Wearing loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres can also play a role in sunburn prevention by limiting unnecessary friction between your clothes and skin.

Xerosis and pruritus 
With dry skin, moisturising is imperative to prevent further dryness and hydrate the skin. Skincare products with vitamins A, B, C, D and E are excellent for dry skin.

Keep the nails short to avoid any scratches you may unconsciously do to alleviate itchy skin in order to avoid cutting skin. 

When attending to breast tissue during baths and showers, make these short and lukewarm as long hot showers and baths can make skin even drier and when drying, avoid rubbing the towel over the skin rather gently pat.

Dermatitis 
Avoid skin-on-skin contact as this causes friction which can contribute to the inflammation around the breast, especially under and between the breasts, a way to do this is by wearing a support bra without an underwire, this way the breasts are not only lifted but separated also.

 

Life after breast cancer treatment means a new normal, with changes that can only last a month to ones that are with you for life, they are all testament that you survived and on the path of recovery. Life may not be the same and you may see it with a new set of eyes, but it’s life, and with each new day, it’s another day to live it.

October 21, 2021 — Kwabena Gyane