How Dermatologists Can Help with Cancer Treatment Side Effects

The Derm Group

A variety of new cancer-fighting drugs have been developed in the last several years that target specific areas of the body. Even though they are helping cancer patients fight the battle, they also can create unwanted side effects that can damage skin, nails, and hair. The benefits typically outweigh these side effects, but these ailments can reduce the quality of life and cause discomfort.

Cancer Treatment Side Effects to the Skin

Many patients who undergo cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, or photodynamic, targeted, and biological therapies experience side effects such as:

  • Skin irritations and redness
  • Itching
  • Changes in fingernails and toenails
  • Dryness, flaking, or peeling
  • Sores or ulcers
  • Swollen, puffy skin
  • Rash
  • Darker skin or veins
  • UV sensitivity
  • Hand-foot syndrome
  • Radiation recall
  • Extravasation
  • Acne
  • Changes in and around the eyes

How to Reduce the Impact of Side Effects

Seeing a board-certified dermatologist right at the onset of treatment can help minimize the severity of cancer treatment side effects to the skin, nails, and hair. Dermatologists can create preventative strategies to lessen discomfort and improve daily life during this trying time.

Sunlight Sensitivity During Chemotherapy

Some chemotherapies can cause photosensitivity, or sunlight sensitivity. It looks similar to a sunburn and can continue to be a concern even months after treatment is complete. To prevent this, avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, use lip balm with UV protection, and slather on sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Wear long sleeves and cover up as best you can.

Changes to Your Nails

Some cancer treatments cause vertical lines, darkening, brittleness, yellowing, or inflammation around the nails. We recommend keeping nails clipped and filed, and having ingrown nails treated to avoid infection. Try not to wear shoes that put pressure on the nails, as well. This can greatly improve day-to-day comfort.

Taking Care of Dry, Inflamed Skin

Consider taking quick showers or sponge baths to reduce inflammation and avoid flaking, dry skin. Hot baths will do more harm than good. After showering, apply cream or lotion without perfumes or alcohol while the skin is still moist. Men should avoid using aftershave and cologne, which contains alcohol.

For more information on ways to take care of your skin during cancer treatments, call us at The Derm Group at (973) 571-2121 or Request a Consultation. One of our board-certified dermatologists in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania can help create a strategy with your needs in mind.