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Managing Skin Problems from Radiation Therapy

Your Skin and Radiation Therapy


Updated May 19, 2014

Many people who undergo external radiation therapy develop skin problem during their treatment that may continue after treatment has ended.

Common skin problems that occur as a result of radiation therapy include:

  • itchiness
  • redness or sunburn-like appearance
  • dryness
  • general irritation
  • skin may appear tan

These side effects occur in the area being exposed to radiation. People may also lose hair in the area being treated.

Tips for Managing Skin Irritation During Radiation Therapy

  • Use warm water and a mild soap to cleanse area during bathing. Baby soap is gentle enough.
  • Do not use scented perfumes, lotions, or creams on the treated area unless directed by a doctor.
  • Do not apply any cream two hours before or immediately after therapy unless directed by a doctor.
  • Do not wear tight fitting clothing around the treatment area. It may rub against the area causing irritation.
  • Avoid exposing the treated area to the sun or use tanning salons.
  • Avoid scratching the skin even if itchy.
  • Report any skin problems to your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe an ointment or cream to reduce discomfort.
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