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  • What is Oncology Skin Care?

    sensitive-skin

    Sensitive. Dehydrated. Barrier Impaired. Surprising as it may be, treating the skin of someone undergoing chemotherapy and related cancer drug treatments is often times the simplest part of the skin care service. In working with oncology clients it is actually the other considerations that go hand-in-hand with cancer treatments that pose the greatest challenge for the skin care therapist such as compromised blood cell counts, blood clots or risk thereof, involved lymph nodes, tissue integrity, bone involvement, medical devices, clients’ experience of side effects, and long term or late effects of treatment.

    In addressing skin specific considerations, identifying therapist guidelines for oncology clients starts by establishing whether you are working with a client in active treatment and recent recovery, or someone in long-term survivorship. With regards to the latter client population, understanding the modifications related to compromised lymph nodes will serve you best, and treating their skin will most often depend on your resource knowledge on how to treat aging, dehydrated, and sensitive skin (note order of words).

    In working with clients still in active cancer treatment or recent recovery, skin is usually extremely dry and dehydrated, inflamed and irritated, fragile, sun sensitive, and can be very reactive. In this situation treat the sensitivity first. Product properties that minimize exacerbating skin sensitivities include an acidic-neutral pH to minimize the flux in skin pH; surfactants or emulsifiers that will not strip the skin of its moisture or strip the lipids and proteins of the stratum corneum; moisturizing ingredients such as emollients, humectants, and occlusives; and formulas without potential irritants and allergens.

    Additional core guidelines model the “Less Rule” in practice; avoid excessive heat, steam, and anything invasive, aggressive, or too stimulating. Put on hold physical scrubs, Retin A or Retinol-based products, strong chemical peels, alcohols, astringents, anything that dries the skin, and extractions because of the potential for easy bleeding, easy bruising, inflammation, and the very serious risk of infection.

    Many cancer treatments can additionally cause photosensitivity. Help your clients understand that the best sun protection is reducing exposure, a hat, and a physical sun block.

    Terminology
    Oncology client: Anybody who is in, or who has a history of cancer treatment. Considerations are often different for each client, and during active treatment or recent recovery can regularly change.

    Oncology skin care: Oncology skin care is an advanced field of study and involves the modification of skin care applications in order to safely work with the effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Essential aspects of an oncology skin care therapist’s skill set are an informed understanding of the pathophysiology of cancer; the side effects of cancer treatments, such as medications, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation; and the ability to modify skin care applications, techniques, and product selection in order to adapt for these side effects, as well as for the disease.

    Johnnette du Rand, CMT, NCTMB, CMLDT, Skin Therapist
    Greet The Day, Institute of Integrative Oncology

    Greet The Day programs complement medical care and have provided thousands of hours of oncology massage, skin care, and supportive health practices for people with cancer. Greet The Day is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization.

    Visit http://www.greettheday.org for more information.

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