Radiation takes a toll on your skin. Burning, blistering, redness, you name it. At best, radiation burns are like having a bad sunburn (this was more or less my experience). Some people experience severe burning and other side effects. My purpose here is to share what worked for me, but you should always consult with your own doctors about your care.
Products for radiation skin care:
NOTE: My skin care regime was performed twice daily. The first was right after my daily radiation treatment (usually around 9 am). I took all of my products with me and applied everything in the dressing room after treatment. The second application was in the evening before bed.
Aquaphor – Aquaphor was a great moisturizer that I used liberally from my very first radiation treatment , even before I saw any evidence of burns. I personally think it helped to stay ahead of the side effects. I bought a huge tub of it at Costco that lasted me through 28 radiation and beyond (it was behind the counter at the pharmacy). You can also find at any pharmacy or store that a carries healthcare products, as well as Amazon.
Calendula oil ointment – My radiation oncologist recommended using calendula oil for radiation burns, in addition to Aquafor. After doing some research, I chose to use this calendula oil ointment by Boiron. I bought this during my first week of radiation, and basically applied a thin layer of the ointment over the affected area, then covered it with a heavy layer of Aquafor. You also can use a good quality calendula oil, but I found the ointment easy to use. I purchased this from Amazon, and I still use it today to soothe cuts and scrapes, and other skin irritation. It is also available in pharmacies and other online retailers.
Silvadene – Once I began to have blisters (about 10 treatments into the process), my radiation oncologist prescribed silvadene (silver sulfadiazine). This is only available by prescription, so you will need to let your medical team known that you are experiencing blisters. This is a topical ointment, I applied it sparingly only in areas that where the skin was broken and oozing. Then I followed with my layers of calendula ointment and Aquafor.
Xeroform – This was my last line of defense during the last two weeks when the burning was the worst. I would compare it to a bit worse than than the deepest sunburn of my life. Xeroform was a lifesaver. It is actually a cloth soaked in burn ointment. You can cut it down to cover just the spot you need. It’s not necessary to cover everything. I saved this for the areas where the burn was the absolute worst. I applied my first three layers described above, then laid the cloth over the area. It soothed the crispiest of burns.
You can buy Xeroform at pharmacies or online on sites such as Amazon. It is fairly expensive, so you want to use it sparingly. I actually got mine from my radiation oncologist. They gave it to me by the handful at no charge (although, let’s face it, I PAID dearly!).
I wore my normal bras all throughout radiation. The support actually helped keep everything in place. At times, particularly late in my treatment, I found that the band under the breast and armpit rubbed painfully on the burn skin. There are several easy, cheap fixes for this:
Paper towel – I used some of the fancy, super soft paper towels (Viva brand) that I would never buy for the kitchen. I folded them up into a pad, and used it between the bra band and my skin. It minimized the rubbing and made me much more comfortable.
Sanitary pads and panty liners – You can also use sanitary pads (or panty liners if you need less padding) to give yourself a little relief from the bra band. You can buy the cheapest store brand (Wal-Mart’s are really good for this).
Plastic wrap – if your padding is rubbing or chafing, try wrapping a piece of saran wrap around your padding of choice. It will give you a more slippery surface so it padding will move more easily.
Non-stick bandages – if you have any burns that are not covered by your clothing, I found it helped to cover the area with a non-stick telfa bandage. After applying all of the burn products in the first half of this tutorial, I just gently covered the treated spot with a bandage. Not too tight, just enough to ensure that the burn ointment did not get wiped off.
These are the ones I ordered from Amazon. They are also available in pharmacies or other online retailers.
Those are my tips and tricks for radiation. Always talk to your doctor about your options for your unique case. Your team needs to work to keep you comfortable during your treatment!