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  • South Africa Embraces Oncology Skin Care

    Skin therapist education is essential in performing skin treatments on cancer patients or clients with a history of cancer. It is definitely an area that was not well explored when studying basic skincare in undergraduate school! Fortunately we were recently able to host a two day workshop with Johnnette du Rand, co-founder of Greet the Day and Institute of Integrative Oncology based in USA. Johnnette works in close collaboration with numerous cancer centers and has been trainer and supervisor for their integrative touch oncology programs since 2003. She received the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation for her work in the clinical center setting, and has worked in hospital, hospice and spa settings since 1999.

    The workshop introduced skin therapists to the unique and changing needs of oncology clientele, and helped prepare them with the skills and knowledge to provide safe, therapeutic treatments.

    This invitation-only exclusive workshop was hosted in three different locations across South Africa. Johnnette began her journey in Johannesburg on March 3, thereafter traveling to Durban to host the workshop on March 10 and finished off on March 17 in Cape Town. As there were detailed practical sessions involved in both days, a maximum of sixteen therapists attended each location, to ensure individual attention and perfect movements.

    The skin therapists were greeted by a humble-natured Johnnette and a seemingly large workbook! Her gentle nature and passion made the workshop come alive, as certain myths were clarified and personal stories were shared. The knowledge gained was absolutely incredible and the conversation flowed easily throughout the days. The practical sessions ensured that our students left the two days confident to work on either cancer clientele or survivors. We discussed treatment objectives, safety considerations, product selection and massage practices for oncology skin treatments, including adjustments required to safely address lymphedema, a common side effect of cancer treatment.

    Knowing that we, as skin therapists, are able to provide relief and comfort to a cancer patient through the ability to touch is eye opening. It reminded me why skin therapy is truly the best profession to be in!

  • 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.