Can breast cancer radiation cause dry skin? Can you offer suggestions for relief?

Answer From Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.

Dry skin after breast cancer radiation treatment is fairly common. In addition to dry, flaky, itchy skin, you may experience sunburn-like skin changes to the treated area.

If you're struggling with persistent itching and burning symptoms following the radiation treatment, consult your radiation oncologist. He or she can help determine whether any underlying conditions are contributing to your symptoms or decide if you should make an appointment with a skin specialist (dermatologist).

In the meantime, these suggestions may help:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Moisturize your skin. Moisturizers provide a seal over your skin to keep water from escaping. Thicker moisturizers work best. Choose a moisturizer that's water-based and unscented. Ask your doctor or nurse to recommend specific products.
  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths can dry your skin. Take short baths or showers, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Wash with mild soap. Avoid harsh, drying soaps such as deodorant or antibacterial types.
  • Avoid direct sun. Wear protective clothing, such as a broad-brimmed hat and shirt with long sleeves to protect your skin from the sun. Don't use tanning beds.

Make an appointment with your cancer doctor if you notice any new or persistent areas of skin redness. If the itching and burning don't improve or you have blistering or scarring from breast cancer radiation, your doctor may recommend various prescription medications to ease your symptoms.

March 28, 2019 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. 3D mammogram
  2. Alternative and complementary medicine for metastatic breast cancer
  3. Biopsy procedures
  4. Blood Basics
  5. Bone scan
  6. Brachytherapy
  7. BRCA gene test
  8. Breast cancer
  9. Breast cancer chemoprevention
  10. Breast Cancer Education Tool
  11. Breast cancer prevention
  12. Infographic: Breast Cancer Risk
  13. Breast cancer staging
  14. Breast cancer supportive therapy and survivorship
  15. Breast cancer surgery
  16. Breast cancer types
  17. Breast implants: Do they interfere with mammograms?
  18. Breast implants and cancer
  19. Evaluating breast lumps
  20. Breast lumps
  21. Breast MRI
  22. Infographic: Breast Reconstruction Options
  23. Breast self-exam for breast awareness
  24. Chemo Targets
  25. Chemotherapy
  26. Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment
  27. Chemotherapy and sex: Is sexual activity OK during treatment?
  28. Chemotherapy for breast cancer
  29. Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting: Prevention is best defense
  30. Chest X-rays
  31. Complete blood count (CBC)
  32. Conflicting mammogram results: What can I do?
  33. Coping with pain after breast surgery
  34. CT scan
  35. CT scans: Are they safe?
  36. Dense breast tissue
  37. Does soy really affect breast cancer risk?
  38. Dragon Boats and Breast Cancer
  39. Gene expression profiling for breast cancer: What is it?
  40. Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
  41. Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
  42. Get ready for possible side effects of chemotherapy
  43. Get the support you need when you have metastatic breast cancer
  44. Ginger for nausea: Does it work?
  45. Hormone therapy for breast cancer
  46. Metastatic breast cancer
  47. Lower your risk of breast cancer
  48. Lumpectomy
  49. Magic mouthwash
  50. Mammogram
  51. Mammogram: Can it find cancer in dense breasts?
  52. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  53. Mastectomy
  54. Molecular breast imaging
  55. Infographic: Molecular Breast Imaging
  56. MRI
  57. MRI-guided breast biopsy
  58. Nipple discharge
  59. Palliative care: Who is it for?
  60. PALS (Pets Are Loving Support)
  61. Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer
  62. Pink Sisters
  63. Positron emission mammography (PEM)
  64. Positron emission tomography scan
  65. Precision medicine for breast cancer
  66. Preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy
  67. Prophylactic oophorectomy: Preventing cancer by surgically removing your ovaries
  68. Radiation therapy
  69. Radiation therapy for breast cancer
  70. Relationships and metastatic breast cancer
  71. Infographic: Scalp Cooling Therapy for Cancer
  72. Seeing Inside the Heart with MRI
  73. Sentinel node biopsy
  74. Stereotactic breast biopsy
  75. Support groups
  76. Tai chi
  77. The Long Race Beating Cancer
  78. Thyroid guard: Do I need one during a mammogram?
  79. Tomosynthesis-guided breast biopsy
  80. Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer
  81. Ultrasound
  82. Sentinel node biopsy for melanoma
  83. Mammogram for breast cancer — What to expect
  84. MRI
  85. Tai chi
  86. Weight Loss After Breast Cancer
  87. What is metastatic breast cancer?
  88. Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert.
  89. X-ray
  90. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!