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Dry skin after breast cancer radiation treatment is fairly common, especially for people who live in dry climates. In addition to dry, flaky, itchy skin, you may experience sunburn-like skin changes to the treated area. If you're struggling with itching and burning, consult your radiation oncologist. He or she can help determine whether any underlying conditions are contributing to your symptoms. In the meantime, these suggestions may help:
Moisturize your skin. Moisturizers provide a seal over your skin to keep water from escaping. Thicker moisturizers work best, including over-the-counter brands such as Cetaphil, Eucerin and Vanicream.
In addition, emu oil — a preparation of oil from a large, flightless Australian bird — is sometimes used topically to improve healing of burns from radiation therapy. Whether emu oil is effective in preventing and healing radiation burns or in treating dry skin from radiation therapy has not yet been proved.
If the itching and burning don't improve or you have scarring from breast cancer radiation, your doctor may recommend various prescription medications to ease your symptoms.
Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.
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