How to Deal With Skin Problems During Breast Cancer Treatment


A moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher can help skin problems caused by treatment.(GETTY IMAGES)Breast cancer treatment can give rise to a variety of skin problems, including itching, peeling, and infections. You can't always prevent them, but there are ways to tackle these conditions as they crop up.

Radiation in particular can make skin appear burned and irritated. "Your skin starts to get red and raw, and it peels—that was the most uncomfortable," says Kerry Apicella, a 62-year-old New Yorker who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.Other potential side effects from radiation include:

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Chemotherapy for breast cancer can bring a host of skin-related problems such as rashes, dryness, and brittle or discolored nails. Skin infections can become an issue too.Why does this happen? "The weakened immune system no longer prevents what a functional system guards against: bacterial, fungal, and viral infections," says Anthony A. Gaspari, MD, chairman of the department of dermatology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. What should you do for treatment-related skin conditions? "Maintaining skin health requires vigilant sun protection and avoiding strong detergents or soaps," advises Dr. Gaspari. Check out these smart skin-care tips if you're dealing with the side effects of either chemotherapy or radiation.

If your treatment-related skin issues are severe, consult with a dermatologist familiar with the side effects of cancer drugs.