In recent years, millions of people have been able to take advantage of new treatments for cancer, such as targeted therapy drugs, which block tumor cell formation. While older chemotherapy procedures killed every cell that divided, this new targeted method allows oncologists to attack specific mutations. This is not only more effective, but significantly reduces the number of negative side effects the average patient experiences, including infections and drops in blood cell counts. However, some of these targeted therapies are aimed at molecules that fuel both cancer cell growth and the normal development of skin, hair and nails, causing a variety of skin problems instead. If you are undergoing targeted treatment for cancer, talk to your dermatologist if you notice any of the following symptoms.
Rashes are one of the most common side effects of targeted therapy, and typically appear on the face and upper body. Patients usually report itchiness, flaky skin, sunburn-like sensations and more, which can sometimes be severe enough to cause significant discomfort. However, in some cases, this rash might actually be a Candida infection, or yeast infection, which can spread to the lungs, liver and skin if the patient has a weakened immune system. If you notice red, itchy patches on your skin, speak to your dermatologist immediately.
Rough, Scaly Cancerous Growths
There are over 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed in more than two million Americans every year. However, cancer patients sometimes find that they develop unusual skin growths which can become new cancerous growths. As a result, cancer patients should schedule regular appointments at a dermatologist clinic to ensure that they do not need treatment for skin cancer as well.
Changes to the Hair and Eyelashes
Men have a 50% chance of losing their hair by their 50th birthday for entirely natural reasons. However, targeted therapy drugs can also cause hair loss across the scalp and body, graying, increased growth and curling of the eyelashes and eyebrows and increased facial hair growth. Because dermatologists also treat conditions of the nails and scalp, including hair loss, they can be an important resource during this stressful time.
Some cancers (especially breast, head and neck cancers) spread to the skin and cause ulcerating wounds, or injuries that don’t heal. This is an uncommon symptom, but these wounds must be carefully monitored and treated by a dermatologist specialist.
Dark, Brittle nails
As previously mentioned, dermatologists also treat conditions of the nail and scalp. This can be extremely helpful, as many cancer patients develop inflammation and fissures around their finger and toenails. While this redness and soreness can often be treated with over-the-counter treatments used to strengthen nails, they should be carefully monitored by a doctor.
Have you noticed any of these symptoms while undergoing targeted therapy for cancer? If so, contact a local dermatologist in your area today to discuss your symptoms and prevent further health problems.