Most cancer treatments, specifically radiation, surgery or chemotherapy has major physiological side effects on the body, some of which are fatigue, vomiting, infections and fluctuations in weight. Along with this, it can bring about skin discolourations, hair loss, brittle and discoloured nails, taste changes and many more. Such changes are highly distressing side effects of treatment but can be dealt with in the right manner.
Here is how, but before that…
What does chemotherapy do?
Chemotherapy drugs make your skin dry or cause rashes, while nails become brittle, discoloured and cracked. The major effect is loss of hair. In some traditions and cultures, it’s compulsory that the women have long hair and hence losing it might affect one’s cultural identity, however there is no reason to be embarrassed or let the physical attributes of treatment take a bigger toll on your emotional well-being than needed.
What can you do?
Use a hypothermia cap (also called as cold cap or cooling cap) during or after treatment which is a therapeutic device used to cool the human scalp. Worn tight on the head, hypothermia caps are made of a synthetic fabric such as neoprene, silicone or polyurethane and filled with a coolant agent such as ice or gel which is frozen to a very cold temperature (-25 to -30 degree Celsius).
Hypothermia caps may be useful to prevent hair loss during some kinds of chemotherapy infusions, specifically when taxanes or anthracylines are used. It should not be used when cancer is present in the skin of the scalp or in people with lymphoma or leukemia.
You can also wear wigs, hats and turbans which can be very fashionable and affordable. Go to a wig specialist before you begin chemotherapy, so that he/she can suggest a wig for you after your treatment that looks just like your natural hair.
CARER program has taken all of this into account and has introduced a grooming section, where our hairstylist and makeup specialist Sabrina Suhail teaches you how to draw eyebrows and tie a trendy turban by yourself.
To know more, please visit our website- CARER Program.
What does radiotherapy do?
Everyone who undergoes radiotherapy is at risk of skin damage during or after treatment. Radiotherapy is nothing but high energy radiation that shrinks tumours and kills cancer cells by burning them and hence the skin around the area is also affected. The skin is irritated with moderate to severe burning and while the skin eventually heals in most cases, it will not remain as elastic as before. This usually occurs around 10 to 14 days after starting treatment, but can happen later in treatment or after it has been completed.
What can you do?
After your treatment, it’s necessary that you take care of your skin. You’ll be given specific skincare instructions by the therapeutic radiographers in your hospital.They advise you to do the following:
- Wash the treated area gently with warm water using a mild and gentle soap. Pat the skin dry with a soft towel.
- Use a non-perfumed deodorant.
- Use a water based moisturiser to keep the skin soft.
- If you want to use anything else on the skin in the affected area, discuss this with your therapeutic radiographer first.
- Avoid exposing the treated area to extremes of temperature such as hot water bottles, heat pads, saunas or ice packs during treatment.
CARER program has provided you with a short and easy to do make-up tutorial by specialist Sabrina Suhail to teach you how to deal with skin discolourations.
Its normal to be affected by the physical changes that treatment brings about, but remember such changes are not permanent. There are many options available out there to deal with this effectively and because your emotional well-being is key to your recovery, we made sure we dedicated an entire segment to grooming on the CARER Program. Furthermore the necessary step that can be taken is to consult a hair and skin specialist, talk to therapeutic radiographers or consult a dermatologist. We would be glad if you can also get back to us incase you need to further assistance.
“Personality is what makes somebody beautiful” Francois Nars.
(How to deal with the physical changes one goes through with surgery and what can be done, will be addressed in detail in our next blog post, so keep an eye out!)