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Wound Care

Wounds in Children with Cancer

A wound is a physical injury that disrupts the structure of the body. It may be located on the surface of the skin, under the skin or both. For children being treated for cancer, wounds can be caused by:

  • An incision (cut) from surgery
  • A fall or accident
  • Growth of a tumor
  • A GJ Tube – or feeding tube
  • Pressure
  • Radiation therapy

Monitoring Wounds

It is important to check skin regularly for wounds. Proper wound care helps protect the body from infection and can speed up healing. Signs that wounds or breaks in the skin may be developing include:

  • Bruising of the skin, usually reddish or purple. For children with darker skin, this may appear as either a much darker or lighter patch of skin where bruising occurs.
  • Scaly or broken skin
  • Scabs or sores
  • Blisters or raised skin
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Drainage of fluid or pus
  • Rash

As a rule, watch for any changes in the skin. The care team can help, but children and parents know what skin looks like normally.

Call a provider if any of the following occur:

  • A new wound or skin change the provider is not aware of
  • A wound that won’t stop bleeding
  • A wound that is more red around the edges, hot, or swollen
  • New pain or more pain than usual
  • A bad smell is coming from the wound
  • Yellow greenish liquid oozing from the wound
  • Liquid oozing from the wound
  • Any changes in the skin around the wound
  • Fever that is higher than normal

Not all signs that wounds are developing are visible to the naked eye. Additional signs that may indicate the start of a wound or break in the skin include:

  • Warmth or heat in an affected area
  • Pain or tenderness to the touch
  • Itchiness
  • Constipation. Certain medicines can cause fissures (tears) in the gastrointestinal system.

Some wounds can take days to develop. Be sure to report any soreness, new pain, or discomfort.

Caring for Wounds

Most wounds heal over time with proper care. But every wound is different. Caring for wounds varies from patient to patient, and over the course of time. Care for each wound as directed by the medical team.

Sometimes, caregivers are asked to help with dressing changes. There are some basic care tips to keep in mind:

  • Wound dressings should be kept clean and dry.
  • Dressings should be changed regularly, particularly those that become too moist, dirty, or soiled. As a general rule, if a dressing is half soaked or more, it should be changed.
  • Caregivers should wear a fresh pair of disposable gloves each time they clean and dress the wound. 
  • Caregivers should also wash their hands before and after changing a dressing, even when they wear gloves.

Some things to avoid include scratching the wound, putting tape over the wound, and applying baby powder or corn starch, which can feed bacteria.

Be sure to check with the medical team about any home remedies or supplements, as they may increase the chance of infection.


Reviewed: June 2018