Superficial Treatment For Skin Cancers

Treatment with superficial x-rays does not cause side effects to the deep tissues. The only side effects you should see involve the skin in the treatment area. You may notice redness, blistering, or bleeding in the treatment area during your treatment course, and for several weeks after the treatments are finished. This is NOT a burn, but is an expected reaction to radiation, called radiation dermatitis. During this time, you need to protect the skin from further injury.

Things to Do

Clean the skin GENTLY. Showers and mild warm baths may be taken. Wash the treated skin with mild soap, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry. If you can, try to keep the area uncovered and exposed to the air as much as possible to help keep it dry.

Try not to rub, scratch or massage the treated skin. Do NOT use any over the counter creams, lotions, or ointments without checking with doctor or nurse in Radiation Oncology first. Some of these products can make things worse. We will give you a cream or ointment especially made for radiation dermatitis if needed.

Things to Avoid

Avoid exposing treated skin to the sun. Wear protective clothing when outdoors and use sunscreen, at least SPF 15 or above.

Avoid swimming in salt water or chlorinated swimming pools, as well as hot tubs. If you use swimming as an exercise, ask your doctor if it is alright to continue during treatment.

Avoid putting any deodorants, cosmetics, or perfumes on the treated skin. Use only creams, ointments, and powders recommended by the Radiation Oncology staff. On skin that is not being treated, you may use any products that you choose. Just be careful to keep them away from the treated skin.

Avoid shaving the hair in the treated area. If you must shave, we advise using an electric razor.

Avoid putting tape, bandaids, or dressings on the treated skin. Try to keep it uncovered as much as possible. If it becomes necessary to bandage the area, ask your nurse for her suggestions.

If you do get blisters and/or bleeding, it may take several weeks for the skin to heal completely. Some color change may be permanent. This color change can either leave the skin darker than usual or lighter than usual. PLEASE be patient - this area almost always heals on its own, and the doctors and nurses in Radiation Oncology will tell you what to do to help it heal.

Even after your treatments are done, the skin that was treated will remain more sensitive to heat, cold, and sunburn than the untreated skin. Make sure you protect it correctly with clothing and sunscreen, SPF 15 or above.