Radiation burn or radiation dermatitis is a common side effect of external beam radiation therapy to treat some forms of cancer. While it can be highly effective in destroying cancer cells, radiation can also damage healthy tissue in the surrounding area. The treatment isn’t painful. But it can make skin swell, sore, peel, itch or turn red. That’s because radiation passes through the skin to its target.
There may not be any problems during the first few sessions. Most people whose treatment is close to the skin’s surface notice their skin is itchy and dry after the first session. Skin may feel itchy and dry during the treatment. Some people develop radiation burn after their final session. That’s because radiation keeps on working even after treatment has finished.
Common Radiation Burn Symptoms
Radiation therapy can take place over days to several weeks, with radiation burn symptoms happening during radiation therapy or after therapy is done. Common radiation burn symptoms are:
- Reddening or darkening of skin
- Itchy skin
- Dry and peeling skin
- Open sores that may appear where skin is sweaty or damp, such as armpits or under the breasts
Radiation burns can be especially problematic because they can take longer to heal than other types of burns. Patients who undergo radiation therapy may be more susceptible to skin damage, and it’s important for them to take precautions to protect their skin. This can include avoiding direct sunlight, wearing loose clothing, and using a gentle moisturiser.
Treatment From Radiation Burn
If you’re undergoing radiation therapy, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about skin damage. Your healthcare provider knows radiation therapy can take a toll on your skin. They’ll check your skin throughout your treatment. But you should keep a close eye on your skin’s condition and let your provider know any time your skin hurts, itches or you notice other changes. They can provide guidance on how to manage side effects and prevent further damage. Burnshield effectively manages radiation burns in the acute phase (within the first 24 hours), assists in cooling the burn, minimising skin damage and provides physical protection against infection. By taking care of your skin, you can minimise the risk of complications and promote healing during your cancer treatment journey.
Steps to Combat Radiation Burn
- Wear loose, soft clothing that doesn’t rub against or irritate skin affected by radiation.
- If you need to shave your treatment area, use an electric razor to avoid irritating your skin.
- Stay out of the sun. Wear protective clothing any time you’re exposed to sunlight. Ask your healthcare provider if you should use sunscreen and what kind of sunscreen is best.
- Stay cool. Your skin may feel better if you’re able to spend time in cool humid environments. Use cool mist humidifiers to banish dryness.