- the cancer patient is at risk for numerous treatment and
disease-related skin impairments, including:
- effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery
- pressure sores
- edema, ascites and lymphedema
- cutaneous metastases
- some effects of chemotherapy include: hyper pigmentation,
hypersensitivity, photosensitivity, rash, nail changes
- some effects of radiation include: dry or moist desquamation,
edema, radiation recall
- alopecia is a particularly distressing side effect for some
- focus on the patient's current skin condition and any
significant past skin problems
- observe color, vascularity, evidence of bleeding or bruising,
presence of lesions, pressure sores , edema
- describe any skin changes carefully, including location,
duration, onset, aggravating and relieving factors, treatments and
- review all medications as potential causes
- the goal is to maintain skin's natural integrity
- encourage meticulous hygiene, keep skin clean and dry
- assess high risk areas daily
- promote adequate nutritional intake
- protect affected areas from trauma
- encourage patients to get a wig prior to anticipated hair loss,
- identify sources of funding and places to obtain wigs,
scarves and other head coverings; the American Cancer Society can help with this
- minimize hair loss with baby shampoos, soft hairbrush,
infrequent washings, hair net in bed (in some cases, these
measures may not make a difference)
- encourage use of sunscreens, hats to protect scalp
- encourage verbalization of feelings, fears about hair loss
Couillard-Getreuer, DL and Heery, ML (1994) "Protective Mechanisms
- Skin" in Gross, J. and Johnson, BL (eds) Handbook of Oncology
Nursing, 2nd ed., Boston: Jones and Bartlett, p. 421-463.
DeSpain, JD (1992)" Dermatologic Toxicity" in Perry, MC (ed) The
Chemotherapy Source Book, Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, p.
Goodman, M, Hilderley, LJ, Purl, S. (1997). "Integumentary and
Mucus Membrane Alterations" in Groenwald, SL, Frogge, MH, Goodman, M,
Yarbro, CH, Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice, 4th ed Boston:
Jones and Bartlett, p. 768-822.
Sitton, E. (1992) Early and late radiation-induced skin
alterations: Part II Nursing care of irradiated skin. Oncology
Nursing Forum, 19: 907-912.
I Wish You Knew
What every person should know when facing a cancer diagnosis
Blogs and Web Chats
OncoLink Blogs give our readers a chance to react to and comment on key cancer news topics and provides a forum for OncoLink Experts and readers to share opinions and learn from each other.
Facing a new cancer diagnosis or changing the course of your current treatment? Let our cancer nurses help you through!