Delayed Wound Healing

Author: Marisa Healy, BSN, RN
Last Reviewed: August 01, 2022

What is it?

Delayed wound healing is when it takes longer than normal for a wound to heal. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can slow wound healing. These cancer treatments can affect how your body works and its ability to heal.

Delayed wound healing from chemotherapy is often temporary (it will go away). It is often caused by an impaired immune system and poor nutrition. Normal wound healing tends to return when you are finished your chemotherapy treatment. 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 effect on wound healing, and you may need a longer time for healing before starting these.

Radiation therapy may cause permanent (it will not go away) tissue damage in the area treated. This can impact wound healing long term. Wound healing is affected by the amount (dose, fractions) of radiation treatment received.

How is it treated?

If you have a wound, your care team will give you wound and skin care instructions to help with healing and to prevent tissue damage, both during and after treatment. Home care services can also help with wound care, as well as monitor wound healing.

When should I contact my care team?

If your wound has signs of infection, you should call your provider 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 if you have a fever. Long-term tissue damage may happen years after radiation treatment. If you have new wounds or sores, contact your care provider. Delayed 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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