Side Effects

Appearance-related Side Effects

Women diagnosed with cancer are often faced with distressing side effects as a result of their treatment, some of which can change their appearance and body image.
  Their self confidence and self esteem can be at an all time low. Some of these physical changes may include hair loss (including eyebrows and eyelashes), sensitive and dry skin, uneven skin pigmentation, puffiness, brittle nails and nail discolouration.

Chemotherapy uses combinations of drugs that halt rapidly dividing cancer cells but each has its own side effects. Dry skin is the most common.

Radiation treatment uses high energy rays to destroy cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. Inform your doctor immediately if you experience any changes in skin colour or notice signs of infection.

Tips to hydrate dry skin:

Apply moisturiser while your skin is damp – take special care of sensitive areas around eyes and lips

Avoid sun exposure when possible. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor

Wear a broad brimmed hat and protective clothing

Avoid cutting your cuticles – instead massage in cuticle cream daily to prevent dryness, splitting nails and hangnails

Avoid hormone creams as well as products containing hydroxcortisone

Skin problems






Sensitivity to the sun

Tips to minimise the impact of radiation on your appearance:

Itching and dryness

Apply corn starch in powder form

Take quick warm showers and baths without using soaps and creams, and gently pat dry treated areas

Apply cream on allowed areas

Avoid perfume, cologne and aftershave lotion with alcohol


Avoid shaving until your treatment is completed. If you must shave use an electric razor.

Sunlight sensitivity

Avoid direct sunlight

Use a sun screen lotion

Use a lip balm

Wear long sleeve cotton shirt, pants and hats

Nail problems






 Vertical lines and bands

Tips to minimise the impact of treatment on your nails:

Buy a nail strengthening product

Protect nails when working in garden, house, washing dishes

Look after cuticles

How can I care for my scalp and hair during chemotherapy?



Use a mild shampoo

Use a soft hair brush

Use low heat when drying your hair

Have your hair cut short

Protect scalp from the sun

Avoid brush rollers to set your hair

Avoid dying, perming and relaxing your hair
Options when you lose your hair


Wear turbans 






Wigs or hair pieces


Leave head uncovered 


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