Top 10 Recommendations for Managing the Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

By Dr. Donald Richey, Dermatologist and Founder of Brighter Days

Positive Attitude

Maintaining a positive attitude during this most difficult is almost impossible but there have been studies that suggest positive outlook can be helpful in the healing process.

Only You!

Only You! I repeat Only You! Can really understand the emotion that you are now enduring. Therefore you need to love, support, and to communicate with your fellow cancer patients. This is a very exclusive club that you joined without your permission and you need to pull together. So surround yourself with a support group of friends, family and medical experts.

Stay in Touch

If you have a skin reaction such as hives, blisters or rash that is all over your body you or having a drug allergy and need to stop and get in touch with your oncologist immediately as this can be a serious threat to you continuing the medication. In some cases a dermatologist can work with the oncologists to keep you taking your medication.

Don't Panic

Don’t panic if you lose your hair. On about day 14 it will come back after you stop the chemotherapy (unless it was radiation). Try female 5% Rogaine, and it will help bring it back faster and even thicker. Or get a cute wig during this period of time. Actually get a blond or red wig and scare your husband.

Very Dry Skin

Your skin will get very dry because as the chemotherapy knocks out the hair follicle, and it’s also very destructive on the sebaceous oil glands and therefore becomes very dry. Keep your showers quick and lukewarm and immediately moisturize with a high quality cream (not lotion). Make sure you are using unscented soaps and laundry detergents.

Sunburn Easily

You can become very sensitive to sunlight during your chemotherapy and MUST be wearing a sunblock- I prefer a SPF 50 and should contain either or both zinc or titanium. Wear SPF 50 year round as the UVA waves go right through window glass. Because you will be indoors and protecting from sunlight you may get very deficient in Vitamin D. Please have your oncologist blood test you and he will order the D3 that you will need.

Dry Mouth

The mucous membrane of your mouth may get very dry. You should take one of the several rinses for dry mouth and hopefully will contain xylitol to prevent tooth decay. Always check with your dentist before chemotherapy and inform him/her of your treatment.

Oral Biotin

Oral biotin up to 5000 mcg per day can be very helpful with thinning nails and hair. This can be taken during your treatment.


Many ladies also get a great deal of thinning of the eyelashes.  They can be brought back to life rapidly with topical Latisse immediately after stopping treatment. It’s also good on eyebrows, but not the scalp.

Treating Radiation

Radiation is a very sophisticated localized beam of UV light and usually produces a first degree sunburn, which is easily treated with cool compresses and soothing healing ointments like aloe vera, or topical steroids. If the area starts to blister, especially under the breasts or armpit, it will require treatment like a second degree burn, and you should consult your oncologist or dermatologist.