Going through radiation therapy for breast cancer is no fun for anybody, and it’s even worse when the rest of the activities you take part in daily are not helpful to your already irritated skin.
While there is no way to fully eliminate the side effects radiation has on your skin, there are some ways you can reduce the impact of radiation and other skin irritants and keep your skin softer and more healthy. And that will make you happier!
Below are 10 tips for keeping the skin on your breasts (and everywhere else, for that matter) healthy during and after radiation therapy.
10. Get started early.
Start a skin care regimen before you start treatment to get a head start on the side effects that are likely coming your way. Wear an old t-shirt to bed over the ointment of your choice to avoid getting any on the bedsheets.
9. Don’t use hot water.
When you shower, use warm water rather than hot. It may also help to keep the water from falling directly on the affected skin and to use fragrance-free soaps that have moisturizers in them.
8. Avoid unnecessary contact.
Any time the skin of your breast rubs against something else, it can cause chaffing and irritation. Try to avoid this by wearing loose-fitting cotton shirts and making sure your arms don’t rub up against the skin on the side of your breast. Also wear a good bra that keeps your breasts lifted and separated to avoid skin-on-skin contact between or below the breasts. Unless the bra is causing raw areas, in which case it’s totally okay to go braless.
7. Escape from the sun.
Avoid the sun altogether for best results, but if you choose to go out, wear a sun hat, sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and don’t stay out too long. Beaches are better than pools, because chlorine can dry out and irritate the skin. A bathing suit with a high neckline and a cover-up or baggy cotton shirt for when you’re not in the water would also be helpful. You can even get clothing with a good UPF rating, which is like SPF for clothes.
6. Use lotion with SPF.
Use plenty of lotion to keep skin from drying out. Lotion with SPF will also protect your skin from extra damage caused by the sun. Lotion + SPF = fewer wrinkles and less dryness!
5. Use cornstarch.
No matter what you do, there will be skin-on-skin and skin-on-clothing contact. Try to minimize the friction involved by dusting the affected skin with cornstarch or baby powder made from cornstarch (not talc).
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?