What is Oncology Skin Care?
An oncology skin care treatment is a customized client service designed to meet the unique and changing needs of someone in, or with a history of, cancer treatment. An oncology trained therapist is able to provide therapeutic skin care treatment for oncology clients by recognizing and working safely within a framework of clinical considerations.
These clinical considerations are different for each person and during active treatment and recent recovery, for the same person, can regularly change. By observing essential and fundamental Standards of Practice therapists can work to ensure clinical safety and therapeutic efficacy.
There are 7 clinical considerations that a trained therapist must take into account:
- Blood Cell Count – decreases the body’s ability to fight infection
- Bone Metastases – Cancer that has spread to the bone
- Blood Clots – Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis. Clot may travel and cause serious damage
- Vital Organ Involvement – Side effects of treatment and/or cancer may involve our vital organs that we can’t live without
- Integumentary System: Skin, hair and nails – extreme dryness/dehydration, inflamed, reactive, fragile and sun sensitive
- Compromised Lymphatics – Knowing how to massage as to not create lymphedema (Swelling of the tissues caused by obstruction of the lymphatic drainage)
- Medical Devices – Ports/PICC line
As a client is going through active chemotherapy or radiation it can considerably affect the skin and can cause rashes, inflammation, reactivity, severe dryness and dehydration. Severe dehydration of the skin impairs the protective barrier which is our guard against, infection, environmental toxins and UV damage. Restoring hydration allows for the proper functioning of the skin to protect us against these factors. The main focus of the therapist is to soothe and replenish the protective outer layer of the skin and to make thoughtful product choices for the clients homecare.
Oncology skin care is not about correcting skin conditions such as hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles or loss of elasticity. Corrective treatments are too harsh and will impair the protective barrier even further.
These treatments are soothing to the mind and spirit as well. Quite often cancer patients are being poked and their bodies feel abused. As a therapist, I consider it an honor and a privilege to bring an hour of loving care to their entire being. It’s about a nurturing touch to help them forget for just a little while. If I can do that, then my heart would be very full!!
Chris volunteers with the American Cancer Society in the Look Good, Feel Better Program and with the Me-One Foundation’s Camp Weiser for Adults with cancer and their families.