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Like any cancer treatment, radiation therapy can cause side effects. Skin changes, including redness, peeling, and itching, are some of the most common.
Changes to the skin during radiation therapy generally happen gradually. During the second or third week of treatment, dryness, tanning, itching, or redness may occur. Hair loss may occur in the area being treated, and skin may be sensitive or sore. These changes are normal. The skin should heal quickly after treatment is over.
It is important to take special care of the skin during radiation therapy. Treated skin can be easily injured and needs protection. Talk to the care team about any skin changes that occur.
Keeping the skin clean is particularly important during radiation therapy, but care is needed to avoid skin irritation.
If skin becomes dry or itchy, the doctor or nurse may order a special moisturizer to care for skin.
Clothing can cause skin irritation during radiation therapy.
During and after radiation therapy, skin is more sensitive to the sun.
Skin care should continue even after the final radiation therapy treatment.
Discuss any questions or concerns about caring for the skin during radiation therapy with the cancer care team Watch for skin changes, especially signs of infection. Let the care team know if there is an increase in pain or swelling, fever, blisters, or new sores.
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Reviewed: June 2018