Radiation dermatitis is a common side effect of radiation therapy used to treat cancer. Up to 95 percent of people who undergo radiation therapy experience at least some level of radiation dermatitis. Symptoms usually start within two weeks of radiation therapy beginning and can continue for years after treatment has ended.
If your aging relative is undergoing radiation therapy, understanding this common side effect and what you can do about it could make their treatment more comfortable.
How Radiation Dermatitis Happens
Radiation therapy is delivered either externally or internally. Its purpose is to change the DNA of cancer cells and cause them to die. The dosage of radiation the patient receives is determined on a case by case basis.
Radiation therapy has come a long way since it was first used. Doctors try to minimize its effect on healthy cells, but some damage is unavoidable. When skin cells near the area being treated are affected, it can cause side effects like radiation dermatitis. In addition, when radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy, it becomes even more toxic to the body, increasing the chances of radiation dermatitis.
Radiation Dermatitis Symptoms
Symptoms of radiation dermatitis vary depending on several factors. People can experience mild to severe symptoms, which may include:
* Skin that appears red or pink.
* Swollen skin, called edema.
* Skin that is dry and peeling.
* Thinning and weakened skin.
Doctors classify the severity of radiation dermatitis in the following manner:
Grade 1: Skin is slightly red and is peeling.
Grade 2: Skin is moderately red and swollen. There may also be some thinning of the skin in folds.
Grade 3: Skin is thinning more than 1.5 centimeters across. Thinning is present in places other than skin folds and severe swelling is present.
Grade 4: Skin cells are dying and there are deep skin ulcers present.
Managing Radiation Dermatitis at Home
There are several steps you can take at home to help soothe radiation dermatitis in your aging relative. To treat dry, itchy skin, try:
* Apply mineral oil or baby oil to the skin after bathing while the skin is still damp. Or, add oil to bathwater.
* Use cool or warm water to wash, not hot. Also, do not scrub the skin during washing.
* Use moisturizer at least twice per day. Calamine lotion or witch hazel can help with itching.
* Do not apply products that contain alcohol to the skin, including colognes and perfumes.
* Offer extra fluids.
Elder care can help to manage radiation dermatitis. An elder care provider can help your family member to apply moisturizers or calamine lotion. Elder care can also help the senior to bathe safely in cool or warm water, ensuring they don’t fall when getting in or out of the tub.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Elder Care Services in Evanston IL, contact the caring staff at Gentle Home Services. Call today (800) 860-9823.