Several weeks after my breast cancer diagnosis, my treatment plan was set. First surgery, then 18 weeks of chemo, followed by 5 weeks of radiation (25 treatments) and then hormone medication for the next 5-10 years. Whew…It was overwhelming to say the least. What kept me up at night separate from the anxiety of wanting to live a long life for my three small children, was chemo. How would my body respond? What would I look like bald? Would I be tired and have constant nausea? Radiation was a distant concern, until it wasn’t. For me those 5 weeks were by far the most physically challenging of my treatment. Along with the drain of being at the hospital every single day for 5 weeks was the matter of my radiated skin. I had heard this could be excruciating. One of my doctors and several women I had met during my treatment gave me some great tips to minimize the pain and the burns from radiation. Below are some of the top tips that were shared with me.
Before treatment begins, moisturize the skin for about seven days prior with an ointment such My Girls Skin Cream. I would put it on at night and wear an old T-shirt so the ointment didn’t get on my bed clothes.
During the treatment wash skin VERY gently every day with warm water. Be careful as the skin can be easily irritated – just use your hands to gently splash water on the treated skin. Don’t bother with washcloths or sponges. This will remove bacteria from your skin, which can cause an infection. Continue to apply the special radiation moisturizer during your treatment. This helps your skin recover more quickly. Don’t apply moisturizer to a wound. If your skin becomes dry and flaky during the course of your treatment, moisturize more frequently.
If your skin forms a blister leave the top of the blister alone. The bubble keeps the area clean while the new skin grows back underneath. If the blister opens, the exposed raw area can be painful and weepy. Keep the area relatively dry and wash it with warm water only. To relieve discomfort from blistering or peeling radiated skin, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, or ask your doctor for a prescription if you need it.
Wear loose-fitting clothes. You can develop side effects if clothing rubs against skin that been treated with radiation. Wearing loose-fitting clothing helps to prevent these side effects.
If you need to wear a bra. Make sure it is a comfortable soft bra made for radiated skin like the AnaOno Full Coverage or Pocketed Plunge. You do not want it to fit too tightly against the affected area.
During radiation, you want to keep the treated area completely out of the sun. Wear a bathing suit with a high neckline and a cover-up when you're not in the water. Try to avoid chlorine if possible.
After your radiation treatment is done continue with your moisturizing routine until the redness subsides. Also, remember the skin that has been exposed to radiation may be more sensitive to the sun than it was in the past. You can go out in the sun but make sure you protect your skin. Use a sunblock that is rated SPF 30 or higher on the area that was treated and don’t forget to reapply!
Radiation is just one more thing that many breast cancer survivors have to deal with. Like all the challenges we face there are ways to make them more manageable. I hope this helps one of you do just that. :)
My Girls Skin Cream Pocketed High Neck Tankini
Pocketed Plunge Bra