If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, then your doctor may want you to to go to a clinic like Firelands Regional Medical Center and start going through cancer treatments right away. These treatments are likely to include radiation. External radiation is the type that is used to treat breast cancer, and this involves using targeted radiation outside the body. This will cause some damage, and you may experience some skin issues. One common problem involves the formation of a yeast infection around the breasts. Keep reading to understand why this occurs and what you can do to prevent the problem.
How Can Radiation Cause A Yeast Infection?
When you receive radiation outside of the body, the waves and beams must pass through healthy tissues before reaching the tumor. The beams are angled to concentrate the majority of their energy on the tumor. This means that skin cell damage is minimal, but you will likely notice a red area that looks much like a sunburn around the outside of the breast. If this type of burn appears around the folds underneath your breast, then this may create a prime area where yeast can overgrow. Typically, yeast cells will live in warm and moist areas on the skin, like within the skin folds. When the skin becomes damaged, the yeast can easily penetrate the skin and a yeast infection can begin.
Your body's immune system will usually be able to keep yeast infections at bay. However, your immune system will be compromised and weak after receiving cancer treatments like radiation. Yeast can then flourish and cause the infection.
How To Prevent A Yeast Infection?
You can prevent yeast infections by treating the skin around the breasts before going in for radiation therapy. You will want to wash around the breasts with soap and water. Afterwards, use a hair dryer or allow the skin to air dry. Apply a thin layer of baby powder or corn starch underneath the breasts to help reduce sweating. A cotton bra that lifts the breasts should be worn to keep the skin dry.
Also, wear a breathable and loose fitting shirt to keep moisture from accumulating on the skin. If you typically do not wear a bra during the radiation therapy, then bring a small cotton cloth like a washcloth with you. Place the cloth underneath the breast. This will help to reduce skin to skin contact so that sweat and yeast do not accumulate.
How Can You Treat A Yeast Infection?
If you do notice a rash around the skid folds of your breasts after radiation therapy, then use a topical antifungal cream to treat the area. You can get a cream like miconazole, oxiconazole, clotrimazole, ketoconazole, or ciclopirox at your local drug store for treatment. Make sure the infected area is clean and dry and then apply a thick layer of the cream underneath the affected breast. If the infection does not go away or does not start to look and feel better in a few days, then speak with your physician about an oral antifungal medication like fluconazole.
You can use a natural solution to try to reduce the infection as well. Tea tree oil has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties and can help to kill yeast cells fairly quickly. The full strength of the oil can burn skin that is already irritated, so you will need to mix the oil with another oil to reduce discomfort. Place 10 drops of the oil in a container with about one cup of olive or coconut oil and gently mix the solution. Place the oily solution on the skin. You can also mix a few drops of the oil into your favorite fragrance free lotion and add it to the affected area.