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Thursday, July 10, 2008

With hormone pills, radiation, surgery and grit: Skin lotion for cancer patients

Kairol Rosenthal, 35, is a choreographer and writer in Chicago. For the last seven years she has battled thyroid cancer with hormone pills, radiation, surgery and grit. She has had to contend with 101-degree fevers, heart palpitations, and a severe lack of appetite.

The hormone therapy to slow the growth of the tumor, leaves red blotches on her face and bone-dry patches along her jaw line.

"I have not yet made my peace with skin that doesn't look good," she said. She spends much of her free time in hunting for news about thyroid cancer. She is writing a book about living with the disease.

Radiation can cause what looks and feels like a sunburn on the area that the beam passes through to get to cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can make the skin and lips feel dry and itchy because it indiscriminately tries to damage all fast-growing cells, including skin cells.

Kairol heard a radio ad for Lindi Skin, a skincare line of products designed for cancer patients. Several companies now make skincare products for cancer patients.

Depending on who you ask, such products give patients one more tool to ease side effects, or a false hope that a costly lotion will be more effective than a mild drugstore lotion.

Oncologists and dermatologists are now looking into these products because cancer-fighting drugs called targeted therapies can cause rashes so severe that some patients threaten to drop out if they are left untreated. As of now, there is no scientific study that shows these products are any better than less expensive and less glamorous products like Cetaphil or CeraVe.

Yet some patients prefer them. Dianne Dassa, a breast cancer patient in New York, said the Lindi body wash and serum helped heal her radiation burn and her psyche. And "they were so beautifully packaged, I felt like I was getting a gift."

Advice: As a gift, you can give the fancy lotions to the cancer patient you care for. Cancer patients themselves can buy the less expensive drugstore products that have been shown to be effective.

Read a story of an entrepreneurial cancer survivor.

Thanks to Kayleen Schaefer for the source article in today's NY Times.

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