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Avoiding Massage Lubricants During Radiation Therapy  

Iíve heard that cancer patients cannot have massage with oils or creams while undergoing radiation therapy. Is this true?

Yes. Oils and other massage lubricants should not be used when a patient is undergoing radiation therapy. Massage lubricants leave a coating, which can exacerbate (make worse) the side effects of radiation therapy. This is especially true for the areas under the breast and the armpits, which often tend to react more severely to external radiation therapy, because of the warmth and moisture in these areas of the body. For the same reason, patients undergoing external radiation therapy should avoid the use of hot or cold packs.

Some oils and other moisturizers, such as lotions containing alcohol and metals, also can interfere with the skinís healing. Alcohol dries the skin. Metal salts, such as zinc oxide or aluminum stearate, can cause rashes to form on skin that is tender from exposure to radiation therapy. Even lubricants that are especially prepared for use in patients undergoing radiation therapy can create skin problems because of certain ingredients, such as alcohol, in the lubricants.

On the other hand, pure aloe vera gel has been proven to be safe and beneficial for use on the skin of patients undergoing radiation therapy. Pure aloe vera gel re-hydrates the skin, as well as decreases skin inflammation.

Be sure to discuss any plans for massage therapy ahead of time with your radiation oncologist. Also, remember to work with a massage therapist who is experienced in working with cancer patients and who understands what type of massage therapy is appropriate for a patient undergoing radiation therapy.


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