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.