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The skin requires special care during radiotherapy and after irradiation. Radiotherapy is the oldest method of treating neoplastic diseases, but it still causes fear in patients. One of the reasons is the fear of side effects, including permanent damage to the skin. What is it really like and what to do to avoid trouble?
The skin subjected to irradiationis dry, not very elastic, susceptible to injuries and abrasions, the formation of bedsores, peeling. This is because the radiation strips it from the sebaceous glands, sweat glands and hairs. Dilated blood vessels appear. Over the years, the skin after radiotherapy renews a bit, but it does not fully return to its former form. That is why careful care is extremely important.
During radiotherapy, if possible, avoid exposure to the sun, protect the skin by wearing appropriate airy clothes made of natural fabrics. Appropriate headgear can also help to protect the face and neck if these parts of the body are exposed to light. If it is impossible, before leaving the house, the skin should be lubricated with creams with a high UV filter - such protection is necessary for at least a year after the end of irradiation.
What is radiation exposure?
The degree of skin damage depends on the radiation dose (it accumulates with successive irradiation), the quality of the rays and the irradiated area.
Radiation therapy damages vessels and connective tissue, as well as the sebaceous and sweat glands. The treatments negatively affect the skin's functions and its ability to regenerate. Radiation reactions in the skin are a significant side effect of radiotherapy. The most common symptoms of post-radiation changes are:
- strong reddening of the exposed skin (looks like sunburned)
- annoying itching
- severe dryness and spontaneous peeling of the skin
- susceptibility to bacterial, fungal and viral infections
- hair loss when hairy skin is exposed
Most of these changes go away a few weeks after the end of radiotherapy. It happens, however, that permanent changes remain on the skin, e.g. discoloration or thickening of the epidermis.
Skin after radiotherapy: smartcare
The skin after radiotherapy should be treated with particular care to create the best conditions for regeneration.
- Take a shower or take a short bath in lukewarm water. Use mild dermocosmetics with a natural pH, no dyes or fragrances. Avoid bar soaps and high-foaming washing liquids. Do not use a sponge or brush for washing.
- During the therapy, do not soak the irradiated area for too long, and be careful not to wash off the markings on the skin. Take care to gently dry the areas of the skin that are exposed to light with a soft towel, avoiding abrasive materials and rubbing that can damage the delicate epidermis.
- Gently pat dermocosmetics with a protective and regenerating effect into the skin. Never rub them on! Apply a cream or lotion intended for this type of skin to the irradiated area no later than 2 hours before irradiation, so that during the treatment the skin has time to completely absorb the preparation and is absolutely dry.
- Men should use an electric razor for shaving because it irritates the skin less. They should also give up colognes, perfumes, alcohol-based aftershave, and spray deodorants.
- Avoid sharp changes in temperature, such as ice packs or a hair dryer. Low temperatures lead to rapid vasoconstriction, which causes even more extensive ischemia of the irradiated area of the skin.
- Do not use adhesive dressings on irradiated skin.
- Do not go to the chlorinated pool or sauna. Avoid tanning in the sun and in a solarium, use creams with a high sunscreen.
- Wear loose, airy clothes made of natural and soft fabrics (cotton, silk). Wash clothes and underwear with detergents for allergy sufferers.
What is irradiation?
The effectiveness of radiation therapy is based on the harmful effect of ionizing radiation on cells and cell nuclei. In irradiated cells there is, among others, to changes in the permeability of cell membranes, the formation of radiation toxins and the destruction of proteins from which they are made. This, in turn, leads to their annihilation - regardless of whether they are normal cells or cancer cells. But between consecutive irradiation sessions, he althy cells can regenerate, cancerous cells cannot do it as efficiently as he althy ones.