In a recent study, however, survivors report that they had not anticipated dermatologic toxicities related to treatment (such as irritated and dry skin) and that these side effects had a negative effect on their lives. The results of the study were published in Supportive Care in Cancer.
Side effects of cancer treatment cause inconvenience, discomfort, and occasionally, even fatality to patients. Side effects occur because most cancer treatments cannot distinguish between cancer cells and normal, healthy cells. The skin is comprised of rapidly dividing cells that are constantly renewing themselves and sloughing off old cells on the surface; however, cancer treatment can disrupt this process and cause dry skin and other skin reactions.
A study conducted across the United States involved 370 survivors from six survivor groups: breast (250), ovarian (27), lung (23), colorectal (15), genitourinary (23), and other cancers (45). The survivors reported their concern about specific toxicities (dermatologic, gastrointestinal, constitutional) before and after cancer treatment.
While the survivors reported being concerned about certain side effects prior to treatment, very few reported being concerned about skin toxicities such as dry and irritated skin. However, after treatment, more survivors reported an increased concern regarding skin toxicities and reported that these side effects had a negative impact on their lives.
The researchers concluded that the impact of skin toxicities is unanticipated prior to cancer treatment. Due to the negative impact of skin-related side effects, they suggest pretreatment counseling and other interventions in order to improve quality of life and prevent disruption of treatment.
 Gandhi M, Oishi K, Zubal B, et al. Unanticipated toxicities from anticancer therapies: Survivors’ perspectives. Supportive Care in Cancer [early online publication]. December 3, 2009.
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