Treating Cancer Side Effects

Health Watch

Overall, cancer deaths in the United States have gone down for the past two decades, thanks in part to immunotherapy and specialized therapies.

But those life-saving treatments sometimes come with a cost.

At 78-years-old, George Handy still does the landscaping at his suburban D.C. home. Yardwork and 25 years in the army meant he was outdoors in the sun, for hours on end.

George Handy said, “I’m fair-skinned. I grew up in a time when nobody really worried about skin damage.”

But in July of 2018, unusual changes to his scalp took a life-threatening turn.

George Handy said, “it started as skin cancer and ended up as neck cancer.”

George had surgery, six chemo treatments, and six full weeks of radiation. The treatments knocked cancer into remission, but then this. Two horrible rashes one diagnosed as radiation dermatitis.

Adam Friedman, MD, Director of Supportive Oncodermatology, Professor and Interim Chair of Dermatology GW Cancer said, “Looks like acne, but it is utterly miserable.”

Dermatologist Adam Friedman is one of a handful of u-s experts practicing supportive Oncodermatology- dermatologists who treat the skin-related side effects of cancer treatments, like targeted therapies.

Doctor Friedman said, “Very often doctors will stop or lower treatment courses because of these skin side effects so if I can prevent that and get a patient through their course to treat, and possibly cure their cancer, that is of utmost importance.”

In George’s case, Doctor Friedman prescribed a medication and topical cream for the rash. Letting him spend more quality time with his wife Marilyn and the people he loves most.

Doctor Friedman says some of the other common side effects they treat include infections, severely dry and itchy skin, brittle or lost nails and changes to hair.

There are about ten other major medical centers offering supportive Oncodermatology.

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