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Skin Care in Childhood Cancer

Importance of Wound and Skin Care

Wound and skin care is extremely important for children with cancer. Many problems can be prevented with regular monitoring and cleaning.

Young pediatric cancer patient plays with her brother outside

Patients and caregivers should watch for signs of developing wounds, and let the medical team know about any discomfort.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, with a total area of about 20 square feet. It is the body's first line of defense, serving as a protective barrier. Together, with other organs and soft tissue, the skin also works to protect, regulate, and support the body.

Under normal conditions, the skin has a remarkable ability to heal and regenerate. In healthy children, most breaks in the skin heal without additional problems. But, cancer and cancer treatments can weaken the immune system. Even small cuts can lead to infection. Skin problems can be a side effect of some cancer treatments. A child's skin is also less developed than adult skin, and skin care needs can be very different depending on age.

Talking About Wound and Skin Care 

It is important for families to talk about wound and skin care during cancer treatment. While careful monitoring and regular skin checks are important, children need to pay attention to their skin and speak up when they see signs of a problem. Patients can feel uncomfortable or embarrassed bringing up wounds and skin problems. It is not uncommon for children — teens in particular — to not speak up until they have extreme discomfort. They also may try to avoid being checked in certain areas of the body.

Talking about skin care and why it's important can help children pay more attention to their skin. Families — both patients and caregivers — should watch for signs of developing wounds, and let the medical team know about any discomfort.

Reviewed: June 2018

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