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Part II: Cancer and Skin Changes—Altered Sensation

Patricia Ringos Beach and Katie Morgan-Lousky April 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
When working with cancer clients, be sure to use cotton linens and be careful not to crowd their personal space.

When working with cancer clients, be sure to use cotton linens and be careful not to crowd their personal space.

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Editor’s note: This article is the second part of a three-part series about how cancer affects the skin. The first part appeared in the March 2012 issue, and addressed cancer and skin dehydration. The third part will appear in the May 2012 issue and will cover cancer’s impact on the skin’s appearance. Skin care professionals must seek specialized training before offering the services addressed in this series.

Robin was in her late 40s when diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her initial symptoms were vague, and the cancer had spread by the time of diagnosis. Her medical treatment plan started with a biopsy, and was followed with chemotherapy and surgery. During and after the chemotherapy, Robin had profound sensory changes and lost all her hair. When describing her experience, she said: “It feels like hot marbles running up and down my head.”


Chemotherapy is a systemic cancer treatment used when cancer has spread or metastasized beyond the initial tumor, or there is a very high risk of metastasis. It refers to chemical agents or drugs that are selectively destructive to cancer cells. These drugs target cells to stop their growth and development, eventually stopping the growth, development and spread of the cancer. In Robin’s case, the cancer had spread beyond her ovaries, and into parts of her large bowel and liver before it was detected and treatment could commence.

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Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Pain that is often described as sharp, shooting or electric shocklike.
  • Loss of feeling in a particular area.
  • Reduced reflexes.
  • Burning or tingling sensations in the hands, feet or other parts of the body.
  • Pain from something that normally wouldn’t cause pain, such as the stroking of a hand.
  • Exaggerated pain response to something that would normally cause only mild pain, such as a pinch to the skin.

Teas and Healing

  • Consider teas as supportive, comforting and healing.
  • Teas contain antioxidants that are absorbed and may help healing.
  • Teas are soothing if ingested or applied topically.
  • Use young teas in their purest forms without preservatives.
  • Green teas have a reputation for being healing, and white teas are known for calming; both are soothing.
  • Chamomile is often used for its comforting effects.

—From and

Is It Hard Working With Cancer Clients?

Working with clients who are being treated for cancer allows for a heightened appreciation of life and recognition of your blessings. Although you are doing something wonderful for your clients, it turns out that you get something even more wonderful in return. This work is often more inspirational than it is draining; however, good coping skills cannot be overemphasized. You must maintain your life’s balance to best allow yourself to help someone else.

Estheticians must keep perspective. Confidentiality is the highest priority. You are supporting the client with cancer and should not give medical opinions or recommendations. You are the skin expert.

Respect for human dignity and the vulnerability of those you care for is essential. Quiet presence and careful listening are skills to be developed and treasured. They will enhance the experience for both the client and the skin care professional.

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