Cancer is a life-changing journey that affects patients and their loved ones emotionally and physically. Some patients may experience side effects from treatments that can alter their physical appearance. Here are a few simple tricks to help you cope with some of the most common appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment:
Hair: Use gentle shampoos and conditioners without harsh chemicals like salicylic acid. Put off hair coloring, perms and other chemical procedures until treatment is over. Try air drying your hair to avoid heat damage, and ask your hairstylist for tips on handling thinning hair or styling hair as it grows back. Keep a lock of your hair in case you later want to buy a wig that matches your natural color.
Eyelashes and eyebrows: Eyeliners and soft eye shadows can disguise thinning lashes. Use a brow pencil in a shade similar to your hair color to fill in thinning eyebrows.
Skin: Avoid products with fragrance, alcohol and oil. Use lukewarm water and mild cleansers to wash up. Pat skin dry instead of rubbing, and apply moisturizer for hydration.
Nails: Avoid polish with formaldehyde, and skip removers with harsh chemicals, like acetate. Try oil-based removers instead.
A little help from friends: Many charitable organizations provide support, services and even products like wigs to help cancer patients handle the appearance-related side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Look Good, Feel Better programs offer beauty workshops that cover skincare and makeup, coping with hair loss (including wigs, turbans and scarves), nail care, and even wardrobe tips. Your nurse navigator can help connect you with programs near you.
If you have questions about side effects of treatment, call askSARAH, a dedicated phone line where nurses answer your cancer questions, provided by the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health.