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Dry skin is cancer patients bugbear – or this …..

Three days after starting on Tamoxifen, my body looked like this in some places, in others it had scaly patches you could peel off – quite interesting.  My face – wasn’t pretty.  It all happened after I started taking Tamoxifen;  now it happens in different variations whenever  I have to take strong pain killers, or am started on a new drug.

In Britain we think it’s not the done thing to complain about itches, cracks, dry scaly skin and other nasties on our face and body,

When horrendous inch-long blood-filled blisters popped out all my body, I rushed to the Head Dermatologist at hospital.  From his magisterial height he loftily informed me that these blisters which had popped up overnight were “due to your age”.  As he left me sitting stark naked whilst he delivered this diagnosis, I didn’t think much of him.  I had paid to see him privately (6 months wait on NHS) so once I got dressed I informed his Receptionist I would NOT be paying his bill, but would see him in court. He never sent one!

Tamoxifen

I used to be Skincare Editor to an American magazine and knew large blisters couldn’t possibly come up overnight if they were due to age;  this would happen grafually.  So I went to France, where Consultants wouldn’t dare be so rude.  Sure enough,tions  after a day of tests an consultations, they told me these blisters were a side effect from Tamoxifen.  Then they gave me healing creams, which French patients get as a matter of course

When I returned my Chemist was really helpful in tracking down products which we CAN get on Prescription here, and first one he came up with was Flexitol.

Cracked skin on Feet

      My Chemist saw me contemplating foot balms – asked if he could help – and I explained that French products had helped my body skin, but I still have nasty cracks on my feet.  Taking the time to explain why this happened, apparently these are very usual when on cancer drugs, and he told me that the Australian company, Flexitol, had gone in with their cancer association to develop a Heel Balm.

This is now on sale in UK, and we can get it on FREE prescription!  Flexitol also make other skincare products, some of which are also on prescription.  Just get your GP to look them up in the BNF (British National Formularly) and prescribe!

Hair and Feet

Split nails can be horribly painful, especially if they catch on clothes when dressing – Ouch!  Or when shaking hands, and are a side effects of the drugs we are on.  We can also have his problem can persist years after we finish a course, so I went looking for help, and found an expert Dermatologist at Guys Hospital.

We tried different products and eventually what worked were  Solvazinc and Synalar, both on prescription.

Solvazinc: this mended my split nails and they are growing back again. I can now use nail polish, and in fact the trendy Dermatologist suggest a French Manicure, as “it will strengthen the nails”.

Synalar:  I was scratching my head so much I began to wonder if I had fleas.  But within a couple of applications of this cream (with a  special applicator that targets the roots), the itching had stopped.  Bliss!  Now I use it about once a month if an itch returns. 

SPF Suncare

If you are going on holiday – in the sun or snow – you can now get Anthelios, a La Roche Posay product, on prescription.  It is mostly unknown to GPs, but tell them to look it up in the BNF book, which is always on their desk.  If it’s in there, you can have it on prescription.

And one day, hopefully, we will be able to access all the products we need to help with side effects on our skin on prescription.

One day perhaps, British cancer charities will work with skincare companies and develop our own products to help us with our skin problems.  But in the meantime when I need care for face or body, I use Living Nature, La Roche Posay and iS Clinical.  All developed in conjunction with cancer associations, mentioned elsewhere on this website and available in Britain online.

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