Although chemotherapy kills cancerous cells, it unfortunately induces unwanted side-effects for many patients such as dry skin, brittle nails and hair loss. “Watching your hair fall out gradually during the treatment can be very distressing. How we look is immensely important to almost all of us,” says Terri Ades, DNP, FNP-BC, AOCN, director of cancer information at the American Cancer Society. Nonetheless, it is important for people to know that there are many things they can do to prevent or cure these side effects.
Mentioned below are some essential tips for proper hair, nails and skincare for cancer patients so that they don’t lose hope:
Skincare during Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy makes a cancer patient’s skin dry and irritated. Instead of waiting for the symptoms to appear in order to deal with them, it is best to start implementing a proper skincare regimen one week before beginning chemo. While most people consider skin problems to be a cosmetic issue, the truth is that it can become very severe and susceptible to infections if left untreated.
Here are some tips that cancer patients must follow for skincare during chemotherapy:
- Avoid long, hot showers or baths,
- Use mild and gentle soaps,
- Use specialized therapy lotions to keep your chemo-stricken skin moisturized, hydrated and soft,
- Since some chemotherapy drugs make the skin more vulnerable to sunburns, make sure you use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to protect your skin against UVA and UVB rays.
Hair Care during Chemotherapy
Cancer patients witness hair loss not only on their scalp, but also on the eyebrows, eyelashes and rest of the body. Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking the growing and multiplying tumor cells in the body; amidst it all, there are other normal cells in the body that are growing and multiplying. Sadly, chemotherapy affects those normal cells as well. Since hair cells divide faster, they become more susceptible.
Follow these essential tips to take care of your hair during chemotherapy:
- Determine if you want to wear a wig or not. It is better to shop for a wig before taking chemotherapy sessions to match the color of your hair to the wig,
- Hats, turbans and scarves are also great at camouflaging hair loss. If you don’t prefer that, try to use a sunscreen on your scalp before going out in the sun,
- Cut your hair short to ease the inconvenience of hair shedding,
- Avoid perming or coloring your hair during chemotherapy as it can worsen your condition.
Nail Care during Chemotherapy
It is common for nails to become brittle, dry and develop lines and ridges during the course of chemotherapy. Although the effects are temporary but they can last up to a few months. Chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat breast, prostate and lung cancer are commonly associated with nail problems.
Many times, doctors advise patients to cool their hands and feet with special cooling gloves during infusion of the drugs. Also, any open nail inflammation that produces discharge is also an alarming sign. For home care, patients can soak their fingers or toes in a solution of white vinegar and water for 15 minutes every night. It works great for killing the bacteria and drying the areas out.