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Breast Evaluation and Treatment

Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Skin Care

Most patients undergoing radiation treatments experience some skin reaction. This can vary a lot, from darkening of the skin (like a suntan) to flaking or peeling of the skin (like a sunburn). This usually develops two to three weeks after your first radiation treatment. After radiation, peeling skin will heal, but you may have permanent darkening/tanning of skin.

Do's and Don'ts:

DO use the special skin cream (Aquaphor) that your nurse will give you. This will help protect your skin. It can only be applied AFTER your radiation treatment, but you may use it as many times per day as you’d like once your daily treatment is finished.

DO wear a loose fitting, cotton bra that doesn’t have an underwire. Avoid tight fitting, rough, or synthetic fabrics against the skin. Some women prefer to wear a cotton undershirt instead of a bra during radiation.

DO use a gentle soap like Dove or Aveeno. Avoid deodorant soaps, alcohol-containing bath products , and baby powder. Wash the treated area with your hands instead of a washcloth or sponge so the marks on your skin stay in place.

DO use cornstarch instead of deodorant on the treated area. You can also put cornstarch on the skin fold under the breast. This will help reduce irritation.

DO tell your nurse or radiation therapist if you develop itching, pain, or peeling/blistering skin in the treated area.

DON'T shave, use deodorant, scented lotions, or any product that contains alcohol on the treated area.

DON'T rub your skin with a towel after you bathe. This could cause the marks to rub off. Pat it dry with a soft towel instead.

DON'T use an ice pack, heating pad, or very hot water on the treated area. This could cause more skin irritation. Keep skin out of the sun and use sunscreen at all times, even after you’ve finished radiation treatments. Your nurse can give you a special cold compress to put on your skin instead of ice packs.


This page was last updated on: March 5, 2008.