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Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

It's likely that you will have some side effects from skin cancer treatment. In most cases, these side effects subside after treatment. In this section, you'll learn more about how to respond to the most common side effects.

Anxiety and Depression

Many people may feel blue, anxious, or distressed after being told they have cancer. These feelings may continue or come back throughout treatment. You may also worry about how you will look after the treatment. Taking these actions may ease your mental stress.

  • Talk with your family or friends.

  • Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker to help you find a person who has already received treatment for skin cancer. Discussing your concerns with someone who has gone through the same experience can help.

  • Ask your doctor about medications for depression and anxiety if these feelings prevent you from enjoying or participating in your daily activities.

Burned or Irritated Skin

This may be a side effect of radiation therapy or topical chemotherapy. These steps can help relieve skin irritation caused by these treatments.

  • Wear loose, soft clothing over the treated area.

  • Don't scratch, rub, or scrub treated skin. After washing, gently blot dry.

  • Don't bandage skin with tape. If you must bandage it, use paper tape, and ask your nurse to help you place the dressings so that you can avoid irritation.

  • Don't apply heat or cold to the treated area. Bathe only with lukewarm water.

  • If you must shave the treated area, use only an electric shaver. Don't use lotion before shaving, and don't use hair-removal products.

  • Keep your nails well-trimmed and clean so that you don't damage sensitive skin when you touch it.

In addition, these steps may help relieve skin irritation caused by radiation therapy.

  • Protect your skin from sun exposure by wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse what kind of lotion you can use to moisturize and soothe your skin.


Scarring does result from skin surgery. Early on, the scar may be red or bumpy. Gradually over the course of about a year, the scar will fade. It is unlikely, however, that the scar will totally disappear. Be sure to speak with your doctor about ways to aid healing. These tips may help.

  • Be patient. For skin to heal, time is perhaps the most important factor.

  • If the area around the scar suddenly becomes inflamed, red, or swollen, check with your doctor to be sure the wound is not infected.

  • If you are worried about the scar's effect on your appearance, ask your doctor if there are other steps to make the scar less noticeable.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, MPH, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/18/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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