Delayed Wound Healing

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

What is it?

Delayed wound healing is when it takes longer for a wound to heal than normal. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can slow wound healing. In cancer patients, normal body processes, such as cellular replication, inflammatory reactions, and tissue repair, are impacted by cancer treatments.

Chemotherapy related changes to wound healing are often temporary and often caused by an impaired immune system and poor nutrition. Normal wound healing tends to return after the end of chemotherapy. If you have had surgery, your surgeon will work with your oncologist to decide a safe time to start chemotherapy. There are a few chemotherapies that can have a major affect on wound healing and you may need a longer period of healing before starting these.  

Radiation therapy may cause permanent tissue damage in the area treated and can impact wound healing long term. Wound healing is impacted by the amount (dose, fractions) of radiation treatment received.

How is it managed?

If you have a wound, your care team will give you wound and skin care instructions to support healing and prevent tissue damage, both during and after treatment. You may be referred for home care services to help with wound care, as well as to monitor wound healing.   

When should I contact my care team?

If your wound has signs of infection you need medical attention right away. Signs of infection are redness, odor from the wound, and pus/increased drainage from the wound. Contact your care team right away if you have these symptoms or get a fever. Long-term tissue damage may happen years after radiation treatment. If you have new wounds or sores, contact your care provider.

References

BreastCancer.orgDelayed Wound Healing. 2019. 

Bryant RA, Nix DP (Eds.). Acute & chronic wounds: current management concepts. 2012. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Erinjeri JP, Fong AJ, Kemeny NE, Brown KT, Getrajdman GI, Solomon SB. Timing of administration of bevacizumab chemotherapy affects wound healing after chest wall port placement. Cancer. 2011;117(6):1296-301.

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