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Radiation treatment: Managing side effects

What is radiation treatment?

Radiation treatment uses high-energy waves or particles to shrink tumors and destroy cancer cells. Special equipment is used to aim the radiation which targets the cancer cells in specific areas of the body.

Radiation destroys cancer cells but can also affect normal, healthy cells. When these cells are damaged, you are at increased risk for infection and skin breakdown.

Skin changes during treatment

Skin changes are common and expected. After 2-3 weeks of treatment, your skin may become pink or tanned. As your treatment continues your skin may become bright red, very dark, or may also feel dry, itchy, and/or flaky. Sometimes you may develop a rash or blisters in the radiation area.

Skin care during treatment

The goal of skin care is to maintain a moist healing environment and to treat the radiation exposed skin very gently.


Continue to shower and/or bathe daily. Wash skin using a mild soap (such as Dove) and lukewarm water. Let water run over the treatment area. Do not rub. Pat dry with a soft towel.

Use mild a shampoo (such as Gentle Rain, Free & Clear) on the scalp if receiving radiation to the head. Do not apply deodorant to skin in radiation treatment area.

Wear loose cotton clothing over treatment area.

Use an electric razor if shaving is necessary.


Do not apply any skin creams 2 hours before treatment.

Apply the Miaderm lotion provided by the Radiation Department on your treatment area 3-4 times per day. Tell your provider if your skin breaks down and stop using it.

Avoid all skin products to radiation treatment area unless recommended by the radiation team.

Avoid placing anything hot or cold (such as heating pads or ice packs) on the treated skin.

Avoid using any tapes or adhesive bandages on the treatment area.

Outdoor exposure

Avoid sun exposure. Wear a soft fabric that protects skin from sun and wind. Wear a hat if the treated area is on the head or face. Use sun screen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher at all times.

Avoid swimming or using hot tubs and saunas to minimize exposure to chemicals and bacteria.

When should I call the provider?

Call the provider if:

  • Fever 101.5° F or higher
  • Pain
  • Rash or blistering of skin in radiation treatment areas
  • Drainage from radiation treatment areas
  • Call 911 for all emergencies


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic.

Reviewed by Hem/Onc 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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