It’s been a busy last couple of weeks and I have not had time to blog, so I’ve been writing this post in my head for awhile. Prior to starting radiation therapy, I did a little Googling around for the best lotions and creams to use to manage the inevitable skin redness and irritation. Here is my experience.
In some of the reviews I read, a few people would post things like, “I used such-and-such cream, right from the start, three times per day, and I had no problem!” I was not nearly this diligent. I would put lotion on immediately after the treatment, but until the skin started to react, I was not very good about re-applying later in the day. About two to three weeks in the skin started to become red, and it was not until then that I started to really stay on top of it.
As a result, I can’t quite say, “This is what worked for me,” because nothing really “worked” for me. My skin became very red and irritated by the end, with the skin under my arm nearly developing open sores. Well, there was one cream that really worked and provided nearly immediate relief, but let me get to that.
My routine was to apply Calendula lotion immediately after treatment. In the afternoon after work and again just before bed, I’d apply another lotion, usually either Aloe Vera, CeraVe, Aquaphor (sticky), or regular moisturizing lotion such as Lubriderm. I was told to use Aloe Vera sparingly, because it is drying, especially in this climate. Besides becoming red, the skin also became rough and extremely dry, so I liked the CeraVe lotion best – although nothing really “worked” in terms of preventing the irritation.
All that said, there was one magic lotion that I never heard about in all my Googling beforehand. On that last Wednesday visit with Dr. Zap, the same visit where his nurse gave me those heart-shaped pillows, Dr. Zap looked at the nearly open sores under my arm and suggested I try a prescription antibiotic lotion. Of course I immediately agreed. That evening, after swinging by CVS, I applied a goopy, thick, frosting-like cream called Silver Sulfadiazine. This stuff worked miracles! The heart pillow was great for the first several days, but eventually the silver cream kicked in and the pillow became unnecessary. By my last two days of RT the skin was already looking better than it had the preceding week.
The down side of this cream, besides being prescription-only, was that it stained. I figured out that I needed to keep wearing the fitted tank-top (to help with chafing) under a ratty tshirt to avoid staining my sheets. And I only used the lotion at night because it was impractical during the day (did I mention it was goopy?).
In the end it worked out and my skin repaired itself surprisingly rapidly after RT stopped. I would say that by four or five days after my final RT – a week into using the cream – things were markedly better.
At this point, nearly a full two weeks after my final RT session, the skin has become brown, like an ugly suntan with well-defined tan lines. There is still some dryness in places and I am still using moisturizing lotion, but there is no more discomfort, and the cute heart pillows have been handed down to Paige.