Breakthrough New Zealand study identifies ways to reduce radiation skin damage

BCAC is thrilled at the results of a New Zealand study that found a special silicone dressing can help to dramatically reduce skin damage during radiation therapy for breast cancer.

The research, carried out by the Department of Radiotherapy at the University of Otago, has found that placing a special silicone film called Mepitel Film over the area to be irradiated can reduce skin reactions to radiation therapy by more than 90 per cent.

Dry, red and burnt skin is a common side effect of radiation therapy and in some women this can develop into a weeping wound known as "moist desquamation".

Around 80 New Zealand breast cancer patients were involved in this latest study.  Half were given radiation therapy over the special silicon film, while the other half were given aqueous cream to to use on the irradiated skin.

The study authors say the silicone film reduced radiation-induced skin reactions by 92 per cent and none of the patients in the silicone film grouping went on to develop ‘moist desquamation’, whereas around a quarter of patients in the control group developed this complication.

Patients involved in the study said they found the film “very comforting to wear” and that it felt “protective”.  They also commented that the film made their skin “less red, less itchy and less painful.”

BCAC committee member, Melissa Bell, who was involved in the clinical trial, hopes this New Zealand research will be picked up by radiation therapists here and around the world.

“This research offers a very simple and cost-effective way to reduce pain and irritation for patients and it ultimately lowers the chances of patients developing a serious side effect in wound infection. 

“BCAC really hopes that radiation therapists will pick up on this latest development in order to provide a more patient-centred approach to treatment,” she says.

You can read a read a copy of the research here

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