- Question from Trishy: Would it be desirable to use facial creams containing vitamin E?
- Answers - Mary Gail Mercurio It's most important to find a cream that you find effective. Vitamin E does afford some moisturization. There are many different options and I think it is most important to effectively moisturize and improve the skin's appearance so a product that also exfoliates or removes the dry skin will have the greatest beauty benefit.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. Treat yourself to a visit to your aesthetician.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. If it is winter and you have hot air heat, make sure that you humidify the dry air that comes out of such a heater. It can really cause significant drying of your skin.
- Mary Gail Mercurio And this dry skin is not merely a cosmetic issue, but often becomes quite itchy. So it is important to combat it for this reason as well. If a medicated cream is desired or necessary to treat the itch, hydrocortisones are also effective, and one can begin with an over-the-counter strength. You can see your physician for something stronger.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. Realize that every person's skin and skin care treatment is different—what works for your friends may or may not work for you.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. One woman asked about antiperspirants. In general, mild antiperspirant use is okay. If you are receiving radiation to the breast and underarm area, it is best to avoid any unnecessary substance on your skin. This includes most antiperspirants. If you do need something for odor, try a cornstarch baby powder that is fragrance free. Dusting the armpit can make you more comfortable and cut down on the friction of your arm moving against the area where you may have had lymph node surgery. Some doctors recommend the prescription antiperspirant called "Dry Sol." This works well for some people, but it doesn't work well for everyone. Try a small amount on a small area of skin first before you start using it over your whole armpit.
- Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph. If a store will not let you test the product, go to a store that will. Dr. Weiss, this is a time where someone should address that antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. OK. Good point. Many people are concerned that the use of antiperspirants may increase your risk of breast cancer. This is a myth that we at Breastcancer.org have addressed.
- Mary Gail Mercurio Back to the issue of dry skin being not only unsightly and with the potential to be itchy, it also is more vulnerable, so it can break more easily, making it susceptible to infection, which is something very important to avoid during chemotherapy treatment. So again, this is another important reason to keep the skin well hydrated because this makes it more resilient as well.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Dr. Mercurio, you raise a very important point which we need to make about skin care of the arms after under arm lymph node removal. In order to reduce your chance of having a swollen arm, called lymphedema, that can occur because of altered fluid drainage from the arms back to the body you need to protect your arm from insult and trauma. Your skin is a very important protector of your arm. Avoid aggressive manicures, wear bug spray when you go out into the woods to avoid bug bites, wear long oven mitts when you are taking a pot out of the oven, wear long thick gloves out in the garden to avoid cuts. Do not wear heavy things on your skin, or on your shoulder or arms that may block fluid drainage. And if you notice any area of the skin of your arms to be swollen, red, warm, and tender, bring it to the attention of your doctor immediately.
On Wednesday, August 15, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called No Hair, New Hair, Skin Care. Mary Gail Mercurio, M.D., Ronda Gates, M.S., R.Ph., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions on the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment, and what you can do about them.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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