It is important to speak with your treatment team if you experience skin changes. Not everyone being treated will have side effects. You may find it reassuring to talk to your doctor and nurses about your treatment and possible effects.
The aim of treatment for cancer is to destroy or remove cancer cells. The most common treatments are surgery, drug therapy (chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy) and radiation therapy (radiotherapy). These can be used either alone or in combination.
Chemotherapy damages cells that are dividing rapidly in the body, such as cancer cells. Some normal cells, such as skin cells, can also be damaged and when these normal cells are damaged, side effects may occur. It may cause changes to the texture, colour or health of your skin. These effects depend on the chemotherapy drug, the dose and length of treatment and if you are having other treatments.
Skin changes that can occur with some chemotherapy treatments include.
- peeling skin
- more sensitive to light
- changes in skin colour
- acne like rash
- dryness and itching
- redness and swelling
- brittle and dry nails
The effect of radiation therapy on your skin depends on many factors. These include the dose and strength of the radiotherapy, the number of treatments, the site and if you are receiving other treatments such as chemotherapy.
Damage to the skin cells is usually temporary. The chance of developing problems with your skin depends on the treatment you have. Talk to your doctors and nurses about your treatment and side effects.
Skin changes due to radiotherapy can look and feel like sunburn.
- dry skin and itching
- change in colour (look red, sunburnt or tanned)
- redness and swelling
- thinning of the skin
- pain or tenderness at the site
Immunotherapy side effects are different to the side effects of other cancer treatments and need to be managed differently.
Skin reactions that can occur with immunotherapy treatments include skin rash and itching, which could be dermatitis, making the skin red, bumpy and itchy.
Side effects can be better managed if reported early, so it is important to let your cancer care team know about new or worsening symptoms, even if they seem minor.