Radiodermatitis (also called radiation dermatitis) is a condition caused by the high-energy X-rays delivered during radiation therapy. It affects nearly 95% of patients who receive radiation for cancer treatment, with approximately 85% of patients having moderate-to-severe skin reactions.
Radiodermatitis usually begins to occur within 1-4 weeks of treatment and persists for the duration of radiation therapy. It may require 2-4 weeks to heal after completion of treatment. The severity of the skin reactions ranges from mild erythema (red rash) to dry desquamation (itchy, peeling skin) to the more severe moist desquamation (open wound) and severe ulceration. Radiodermatitis can be similar to the discomfort of a mild-to-severe sunburn: painful, difficult to move or wear clothing, itching, and peeling skin. In the most severe cases, ulceration can occur, disrupting the treatment.
Beginning with the initial dose of radiation can cause tissue damage to occur. Exposure to high-energy beams disturbs cell regulation, leading to electrolyte imbalance and fluid loss within the cells. The radiation also disrupts the natural wound healing within the skin. Inflammation can trigger several factors, including impairment of the skin’s endothelial cells, skin-cell necrosis resulting in cell dehydration and infection.
Clinicians generally believe that the ideal method for preventing and minimizing skin reactions to radiation treatment is to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial solutions at the cellular level and moisturization of the irradiated area. The current standard of care involves using a simple topical product with petrolatum to provide moisturization and occlusivity to the irradiated area, yet this has left both patients and doctors searching for more effective medicine.