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Hyper- and Hypopigmentation and Burning Among Most Patient-Reported Adverse Effects During Breast Cancer Treatment


The needs assessment surveyed patients’ stage of treatment, radiation-induced dermatologic adverse effects, and over-the-counter products and home remedies that were used.

Breast cancer screening | Image credit: © Gorodenkoff - stock.adobe.com

Image credit: © Gorodenkoff - stock.adobe.com

Researchers at the University of Texas Health in San Antonio recently conducted a needs assessment in patients with breast cancer to survey patients' experiences with secondary dermatologic changes after completion of radiation therapy. The results of the survey were presented in a poster at the 2024 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting.

As breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the United States, Park et al sought to better serve underinsured patients with breast cancer in South Texas. The researchers partnered with Texas Wings, a non-profit organization that uplifts under-resourced patients with breast cancer who are undergoing treatment.

A preliminary needs assessment was distributed before the delivery of the Addressing Breast Cancer Dermatologic side Effects (ABCDEs) program, funded by the Community Service Learning (CSL) grant.

The needs assessment surveyed patients’ stage of treatment, radiation-induced dermatologic adverse effects, and over-the-counter products and home remedies that were used.


Of the 33 patients in the ABCDEs program, almost all patients (93.94%, n=31) were either currently undergoing treatment or had completed their treatment at the time of the survey. Out of the 31 patients, 74.19% (n=23) completed their treatment at least 9 to 12 months prior to the survey; 22.58% (n=7) were receiving chemotherapy at the time; and 3.23% (n=1) were undergoing radiation therapy.

Regarding dermatologic adverse effects, changes to skin color (hyper- and hypopigmentation), redness, and burns/burning sensations were the highest reported among patients. Additionally, 22.58% (n=7) of patients reported severe skin peeling/flaking. Other reported adverse effects included 28.13% (n=9) of patients reporting pain as mild; 25% (n=8) of patients reporting itchiness as mild; 10% (n=3) of patients reporting a rash as mild; 18.75% (n=6) of patients reporting swelling near their breasts or surrounding areas as mild; and 16.13% (n=5) of patients reporting moistness as mild.

For over-the-counter products and home remedies, the top products used were prescription-strength topical corticosteroids (65.63%), analgesics (28.13%), and compression sleeves (25.00%). Aloe vera (15.63%) was the most used complementary and alternative treatment. Less popular over-the-counter products included over-the-counter topical steroids such as 1% hydrocortisone cream (6.25%), sunscreen (12.50%), topical antibiotic creams or sprays (12.50%), and water-based creams such as Cetaphil, CeraVe, or Vanicream (21.88%). Less popular home remedies included ice gloves (3.13%), turmeric paste (3.13%), coconut oil (9.38%), herb products such as chamomile (9.38%), and vitamin E oil (9.38%).

According to Park et al, patients primarily consulted physicians, non-physician providers, and support groups through social media platforms for advice on dermatologic and QoL impacts associated with breast cancer treatment.

“By surveying experiences of radiation-induced dermatologic side-effects in predominantly under-resourced and Spanis-speaking patients, we can better tailor the patient education program to reflect patients’ experiences. Ultimately, we hope to improve self-reported confidence in prevention and management of radiation-induced dermatologic side effects and QoL,” concluded Park et al.

The researchers had no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Dermatology Pearls for Adverse Effects of Breast Cancer Treatments


Park J, Veluri S, Anderson C, et al. A needs assessment for addressing radiation-induced dermatologic side effects in breast cancer patients. Presented at: 2024 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting; March 8-12, 2-24; San Diego, CA.

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