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Radiotherapy skin damage

Posted by


I'm halfway through chemo so I'm starting to look ahead to rads. I have been told that I'll have 33 sessions programmed for every weekday. I have always been very quick to burn in the sun, and in fact my skin is my most sensitive organ - my worst chemo SEs have been rashes and spots. So my question - has anyone ever had a slightly more spaced-out radiotherapy schedule? I spoke to the onco on Friday, but she is not a radio specialist nor my regular onco, so I have to wait to see him in a fortnight. I want to ask for three times a week over more weeks, which will also I think be less tiring although that's a secondary consideration. Will it still work? Will it help my skin recover or suffer less? Any other solutions? I've read some real horror stories about skin damage and I know that my skin is sensitive.

thanks in advance

Love Lizz X 

One day at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time. 

Jess E - Macmillan
Posted by

Hi ,

I'm sorry to hear you are worried about your chemo and radiotherapy. You might find it helpful to go to our expert section Ask about radiotherapy and ask a question there too?

Please get in contact if you need any more help.

All the best,


Macmillan Community Team

Posted by

HI Lizz, 

I can't comment on the frequency of your treatment best to follow that up with your doctor. But when it comes to protecting your skin and from skin damage particularly with your sensitive skin type it's best to be super active with protection. I would apply suncream as often as you can. There is a website called Live Better With that specialises in cancer related products. I think a natural cream would be the best choice. Maybe take a look at their Badger Broad suncream. Hope that helps. Mike X

Posted by


I'm halfway through radiotherapy (20 sessions) and to begin with was advised to use E45, particularly around the nipple and under the breast. This seems to have worked well. Whilst my breast is red and blotchy, I have no pain and no skin damage.  It just gets a bit itchy! I put it on straight after each treatment and again after a shower. I have not used any anti perspirant as the non-metallic ones recommended have not worked! Just keep clean!

Last Friday I was given Medihoney to use, but told if I don't like it to go back to the E45. It is smelly and sticky, so guess what-back to the E45! 

Have had today's session cancelled as the machines are playing up. Session will be added on at the end, which means it finishes on my birthday instead of the week before , gutted!

However, compared to chemo, radiotherapy has been a doddle, hope it is for you too.


Posted by

Hi lizz I've just finished my rads there is some colour change in the area were I was zapped but I look at it as a small price to pay for winning my life back. Please don't worry.xxx

Posted by

Hi Lizz. I had 25 sessions (5 weeks) with a total of 50 grays of radiation. This is more than the standard in the UK, which I believe is 40 (or possibly 45) grays over 3 weeks, but similar to what is given in France and the same as the USA. It's the total number of grays that actually matters as the treatment is cumulative. 

I have extremely fair skin (burn within 10 mins in the sun, then blister and peel, never go brown). However, I didn't have much trouble with radiotherapy. I got the sunburn style redness and ended up with one bit about the size of a pound coin where it was raw - it was where skin rubbed skin ie near my underarm. I was given self-adhering silicon dressings which worked perfectly (can't remember what they're called) and it healed within about a week of finishing radio. 

I did use the R1 and R2 creams all the time from week 2 (they didn't arrive in the mail till then) and they were fantastic. I'd highly recommend them.

Now, 2 months after finishing, my skin is fine but ironically slightly tanned. I did stop using the R2 cream about a month after I finished and the skin started to go a bit leathery after a week so I've re-started using the cream every couple of days. Soft as a baby's bum now. 

I did find that wearing anything tight was uncomfortable so I went without a bra most of the time. Also I only wore old soft cotton T shirts (fortunately it wasn't too cold) next to my skin.

Moral of the story - it's nowhere near as bad as chemo but it's important to look after your skin.

Best of luck

Lynn xx

Lynn xx 

Posted by

Hi Liz, like you, I have very sensitive skin and was worried about rads after hearing people say about sores/ blistering bla bla . However, at the planning appt, I came out feeling much more at ease. The consultant oncologist , who also deals with rads ( Sheffield Weston Park Cancer Hospital ) was brilliant. He gave me large tub of Diprobase cream, and I applied it as instructed 3 times a day, to keep the area well moisturised. I understood that it was important to attend every day Mon - Fri , the effects being cumulative , and continues for approx 2 weeks after finishing. The oncologist checked the area on a weekly basis to see how skin was and to pre crib a different cream if required - it WASNT !!. I also thought every day !!!, however, you just seem to get in a pattern and on first one, was given the same appt  time for every session. I requested not first thing or after 2 pm. ( due to traffic on M1/M18 at those times and ? doubling journey time )In fact some times I was in and out before my husband had parked the car . I'm sure we worry far more of the Unknown , like before surgery/ chemo. Easy to say, I know, but try not to worry too much, I'm sure they will keep a close eye on you - my skin got quite pinkish, wouldn't say red tho and avoided under wire bras. Sending best wishes, Mechele X 

Posted by

Hi Lizz, just sticking my two penneth in. :)

I ordered udder cream on line, started using it two weeks before, to get used to it. It's really good and is really moisturising. 

I  bought a bionson deodorant, roll on. It doesn't stop you sweating but it does stop you from being too smelly on hot days!! 

I also bought a sulphur soap, from the Dead Sea range in boots. It's got no animal fats, sodium laurel sulphate or additives. If you wash your face in it, which I do, it doesn't give you that tight feeling and is very very gentle. I'm hooked and shall keep using it after treatment. 

My radiographer said not to apply cream under the breast, as skin to skin contact can irritate, wear a soft t shirt and tuck the fabric under the skin fold. Sadly I can do that, having had two kids! 

I did a bit of research prior to my rads because my unit didnt give me specific advice. I found lots of useful info and just picked what looked right for me, re the cream. You'll have regular skin checks anyway, they're very keen on that.

Good luck with everything

Kerry xx

 We are all trying to find our new 'normal'

Posted by

I only had 15 sessions of radiotherapy over 3 weeks.  My BCN advised Holland and Barratt pure Aloe Vera gel, kept in the fridge, to apply generously after each session and as needed to cool the boob.  Aside from that I was to use E45.  I used bio oil daily after surgery and until I had rads so skin in good condition.

I am well endowed (G cup) so I was warned about skin on skin burns under my boob and to not over moisturise this area as I needed to keep it dry to ensure I didn't get thrush under there.

My skin held up very well aside from under my boob and the silicon dressings they wanted me to use I'm sure made it worse so I stopped them.  I did use sudocrem one Friday night under my boob as it was smelly and sore (I use this when my hot flushes mean I overheat in bed and I get sweaty under my boob - this was pre BC -). Sudacrem is not recommended but it did trick for me.

 A few days after finishing the "hot boob" kicked in but it was fine with just aloe vera gel cooling it.  Now 10 months on skin normal colour but the bit exposed to the sun on holiday has tanned more than other side.

Treatment is literally a few minutes.  Takes longer to set up.  I had a shell made to keep my voluptuous boobs in place during treatment. 

4 year NEDDY!
Posted by

Hi Lizz,

In Angouleme I was given cream to use by the radiotherapy oncologue. I was told to cream my breast as soon as I got home from my session and again before I went to bed. Then to shower every morning and wash thoroughly with a savon surgras. You must have cream free, clean skin to prevent burning. I have very fair colouring and have always had to use high factor sun cream but I had my 33 seances without a single problem. The oncologue also advised a cotton bra so I bought two from Blancheporte, 100% cotton and front fastening so it was quick and easy to change at the hospital.

Are you using taxi ambulances? If you use them, the journey is not so bad. I had to go 45 mins each way to hospital. It was motorway standard N road so it was further but fast. My driver waited for me each time. The last week, the booster week, the seances only last 30 secs!

I think you can have less per week. I did go every day but the 24 seances ladies only went for 4. 

Hope some of that reassures you. You have been lucky with the chemo. (Remember how my feet burnt ?) so I think you should be ok with the radiotherapy.

Whatever you do, don't put cream on before you go. Three French ladies had misunderstood the instructions and burnt terribly. The nurses came round and checked everyone else's creaming routine to make sure we all knew to go with clean skin. Its an easy error as the oncologue is always comparing the radiotherapy to slight sun burn and of course to prevent that, you put the cream on before not after.

I have just checked my cream. It was 100% Acide Hyaluronique.

Hope all goes well.

Love Karen

Posted by

Hi Liz

Have the most sensitive skin, moles, warts acne etc. and burn in sun. Had 30 Rads and started to get some redness after number 18. I used E45 several times a day and Dr Organic Aloe straight after radio. I got some burnt patches and was given medi honey by the hospital which cleared things in 48 hours. I was told that it is important the sessions are continuous with no more than 48/72 hour break but did not question why this was. Think it ws to ensure a constant bombardment to destroy cells, so have never heard of less sessions in week for longer.

I was petrified about radio as felt could not see what was happening but was really not so bad. Once you get going it seems to fly by and they keep a very close eye on you. Do discuss your concerns with them, I am sure they can reassure you. xxx

Posted by

Hey Liz...

I finished Rads at the end of June, 15 sessions. I was really nervous prior to commencing due to wound issues and delayed healing post mammoplasty in October 2015...my main fears were 'burns' to friable extensive scars in the inframammory fold and left breast inner quadrant,...had open wounds gor months and like you im fair skinned too.

I was given Aqueous cream to use 3 x daily and my skin state was reviewed twice weekly throughout by the nurses at the unit and medics. I also used Aveeno which i found better at moisturising.

I did have blistering to some scars but that was expected but be reasured the care i received was great and the Mepilex dressings i was supplied with healed the areas fully within 7-10 days...literally a miracle given prev 9 months of healing issues.

But most DO NOT have these effects.

I can recommend using Mepilex Transfer under your breast which prevents skin on skin irritation...my scars remained intact though slightly sore...avoid applying creams to this area as advised by others.

I exposed my skin as much as possible at home to cool the skin.

A few weeks post Rads i remained "sunburnt" but soon eased with continuing moisturising, ..now have a 'tanned' boob and all fully healed and comfortable...4 weeks after finishing.

Rads compared to chemo and surgery was so easy...my fears were totally unwarranted.

Good luck.


Look a new day has begun...

Posted by


I finished my rads last week and want to reassure you its not as bad as you think.

I was originally booked in for 25 sessions and fortunately the only tiredness I suffered from was the tedium of turning up daily for the appointment! 

The redness and tenderness only really started the last week or so of the treatment. Managed to cope by moisturising 3 times a day. 

At the start I did ask the same question about spacing the out but was told that wasn't possible. However my oncologist saw me weekly and kept an eye on everything. The nurses were also fantastic about checking that it wasn't getting too uncomfortable. 

My only advice would be to keep in touch with the doctor and let them know if it's all getting too much. You'll be surprised how quickly the time goes. Really daunting at first but over before you know it. 

Take care and good luck

Posted by


I'm fair and get sunburn easily so asked the radiology nurse at my planning session (was a week before they started zapping me) what I could do to limit the side effects, she did say that there's no link between being fair and how your skin will react. She did say no shower products with metals or sodium lauryl sulphate, shower with lukewarm water and moisturise with either E45 or Aloe Vera gel that contained over 98% aloe Vera ( I got life plan from boots which is 99%) but not in the 2 hours before your session. 

They did suggest that if you have a larger bust you're more likely to get sores under your breasts and not to wear under wired bras or bras if possible. I'm a FF cup and this didn't happen to me so please don't assume it will if you are, however in terms of being prepared they did suggest a silk handkerchief in between your breast and the chest if it did happen. Another nurse at my skin check up also suggested a cold cabbage leaf in my bra if I had a hot boob ( I didn't so I don't know if it works)

I've almost finished my rads (2 more sessions to go) and my skin has got pinker but no pain or soreness. Good luck and I hope it all goes well

Posted by

Your nurse must have seen that new advert for Macmillan post surgery bras -

Available in green, white or red with matching scalp cooling cap :)

G n' J