(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A characterization of skin reactions and pain reported by patients with different cancer diagnoses receiving radiation therapy found only those with breast cancer reported significant increases in pain or hotness, tenderness, and tightness of the skin at the treatment site, a study presented during the International Symposium on Supportive Care in Cancer, New York, NY, June 28-30, 2012, has found.

These findings suggest that specific skin symptoms may be related to pain at the radiation treatment site in breast cancer patients and should be targeted for effective pain relief,” reported Jennifer S. Gewandter, PhD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.

A self-report survey, adapted from the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory and the McGill Pain Questionnaire, was compared by 111 patients to assess skin problem and pain at the radiation treatment site on a 0-5 scale. The survey was completed before and after treatment.

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A total of 59% of the patients were female; 96% were white, and mean age was 64 years. Cancer diagnoses included: lung (21.6%), breast (18.9%), alimentary/GI (16.2%), hematological (10.8%), and genitourinary (9.0%).

“Only breast cancer patients reported significant increases in pain (mean change=1.3, P=0.002) or general skin problems (mean change=1.75, P<0.0001) at the treatment site,” Dr. Gewandter reported. Alimentary/GI, hematological, and lung groups reported trending increases in skin redness and/or flaking (P=0.048), whereas patients with breast cancer displayed significant increases in skin redness, itching, hotness, tenderness, and tightness (P=0.0045).

She concluded that these findings should be confirmed in a larger sampling of more cancer types.