Cancer treatments can do a number on more than the disease. Many times, they also take a toll on patients physically and emotionally, causing pain, hair loss, lethargy, anxiety and other side effects that impact patients’ quality of life. Chemotherapy, for example, targets cells that grow quickly, including healthy cells in the skin, hair and nails. That’s why some patients lose their hair or struggle with cracking skin and brittle nails. Surgery, meanwhile, may cause pain and scars, and radiation therapy is known to cause fatigue and itchy and blistering skin.
But there are ways to counteract the effects of treatment and feel better while getting better. For some patients, all it takes is a little bit of makeup, a little bit of maintenance and a little bit of movement to help them feel more energized and confident in their appearance. To help patients handle the effects of cancer treatment, Joyce Clements, an Esthetician at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shared these five tips:
1. Take care of your body.
Try to strike a balance between getting enough rest each day and getting enough movement. Rest is important because it allows the body to relax and repair itself from the day’s wear and tear; movement is important because it helps keep the muscles and organs strong. Exercise also has been shown to improve mood, boost energy and help maintain a healthy weight.
2. Take care of your skin.
Dry skin is one of the most common complaints from cancer patients, Clements says. “Moisturizing and hydrating the skin are so incredibly important,” she says. “If your skin cracks from dryness or dehydration, it could present an opening for viruses and bacteria.”
Before you take a shower, make sure you remove all your makeup and don’t let the water get too hot because it may dry out the skin. After you shower, pat yourself dry and moisturize your body with lotion.
It’s also important to use clean sheets and towels, to routinely sanitize the surfaces of your living areas, and clean or replace dirty makeup brushes regularly.
3. Take care of your nails.
Although changes to your nails are typically only temporary, dryness and discoloration are common during cancer treatment. To help reduce damage, moisturize your nails and cuticles often with non-irritating oil, and clip your nails when needed.
4. Take care of your hair, scalp or wig.
Dry skin doesn’t stop at the hairline. Keeping your hair and scalp hydrated is vital to preventing irritation. Witch hazel or baby shampoo may help cleanse the scalp in a soothing way.
Also, if you wear a wig or other head covering, make sure you wash it frequently, and never wear it for long periods at a time because sweat buildup may irritate your scalp.
5. Take care of yourself.
Cancer treatment may leave you feeling down or overly fatigued. Take the time to engage in activities that make you feel good, like getting a massage or a manicure and pedicure. Beauty treatments may not only make you feel good, but they may help improve body’s defenses, too. Be careful, though, to follow strict hygiene guidelines to protect against infection.
“Cancer patients who take care of themselves during treatment generally see many positive benefits,” Clements says.