SKIN CARE DURING CANCER TREATMENT
20 years ago skin care didn’t even enter cancer discussions. It was thought that skin care during cancer treatment or in recovery would be the last thing to worry about.
Being diagnosed with cancer meant many serious concerns, primarily about general prognosis and treatment options. Thankfully, medical science continues to progress and today many types of cancer can be successfully treated. Still, a serious illness implies a difficult time for the patient and their loved ones. Cancer patients have to deal with stress, worry, fear, often pain and life-changing symptoms. It is a lot of discomfort. Even today the highly effective chemo and radiotherapy have a variety of side effects, many of which affect the patient’s life style and appearance.
It is entirely normal to lose or gain a lot of weight during treatment. Hair loss is fairly common and sometimes affects eyebrows and eyelashes. The skin may become dry, sensitive and flaky, reddening and flushing with the lightest touch. Inflammatory elements may appear both on the face and body. All of these side effects mean that the therapy is working on the body and eliminating cancer cells. If the treatment is successful, hair loss and dry skin seem like a small price to pay for recovery.
None of this means, however, that the patient can’t be upset by the changes in their appearance. It is completely normal to be upset that one’s skin looks tired or angry and inflamed.
In fact, if the patient still cares about skin care during cancer treatment, it means that the disease hasn’t taken their thoughts over entirely, which is always a good sign.
Unfortunately, many women fighting cancer have to face their skin care concerns on their own. Beauty professionals are often reluctant to give advice on skin care during cancer treatment and even during the first few years of remission. Rather than performing a beauty treatment or recommending some products, beauticians tend to refer the patient to their doctor. Their caution is perfectly reasonable as there is very little information available concerning the safety of beauty treatments and solutions in combination with cancer therapy. However, today we know a lot about the changes in the skin during and after therapy and about contraindications in the recovery period.
During any kind of cancer treatment, the patient’s skin becomes more sensitive, its natural protective properties diminish, the skin loses moisture easily and gets thinner and drier. Inflammations, which may develop at this time, are usually related to decreased natural protection rather than oily skin or hormonal changes.
At the very beginning of treatment, it would be a good idea to adjust routine skin care.
I wouldn’t recommend any beauty treatments accelerating the lymph flow, because the lymphatic system is quite often the “road” which cancer cells choose to travel. This includes all kinds of lymphatic drainage, massage (alas, even a very relaxing one, because practically any type of massage implies some impact on lymph vessels), microcurrent and ultrasound treatments, vacuum suction treatments (LPG and such), laser treatments (unless they’re part of cancer therapy), radiofrequency and high intensity treatments. Basically, you could say that all machine treatments should be avoided at this time.
Same is true for injections. Most injection techniques imply stimulation of deeper skin layers and activating the synthesis of new agents by the cells, which is not particularly desirable during cancer treatment.
After achieving remission and ending therapy, skin care strategy should stay the same for a few months at least (up to a year). Restoring, moisturising and calming the skin are most important at this point. The first few months after finishing the treatment are the time to recuperate, and the skin, clichéd as it may sound, is a reflection of general health. Many patients, elated by their remission, seek to do something radical now — they want cosmetic surgery or some miraculous rejuvenating laser treatments or injections. Understandable as it is, it would still be better to wait. As the body heals itself, the skin will gradually improve too. Better tend to the skin’s need — use moisturising masks, get some facials (without active massage and machines). If remission is stable and the patient is recovering well, some more intense beauty treatments will be possible. Still caution is key. It is better to avoid treatments with systemic effect, such as high-intensity treatments of face, neck and body, as well as active massage and machine therapy with strong stimulating effect. Active methods of skin renewal, however, such as dermabrasion, local correction of wrinkles and pigmentation, should be perfectly fine. For example, local expression lines correction with botulinum toxin or fillers, pigmentation removal, local facial contouring would be ok, while stimulating anti-age laser treatments, RF, cryolifting, injections of stimulating peptide complexes, growth factors, cell cultures (particularly, fibroblasts), PRP therapy, stimulating mesotherapy cocktails, biorevitalisation are still not recommended. It would be wise to choose clinics and salons with good reputation, where experienced professionals (preferably with medical background) would not try to sell unnecessary or even dangerous treatments.
It is also advisable to avoid general trauma, pain and injury. If you were treated for cancer, your body has been through a lot already, thank it by taking good care of it.
In France there is a whole movement of beauty professionals who visit clinics where cancer patients undergo therapy and perform simple enjoyable beauty treatments, such as hand and feet massage, manicure and pedicure, facials. It does seem that women who get this sort of attention tend to generally feel better and respond to their therapy more.
Point is, everything that improves the quality of life during treatment and after it, all the nice things that bring one joy and distract from the illness for a while, are beneficial and help people get better. The key thing to concentrate on, is remember that many illnesses are treatable and even if you don’t look your best today, tomorrow is a new day and you’ll feel beautiful again.