Expert advice before you scratch

Cancer Research UK
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CancerHelp UK

the patient information site of Cancer Research UK, has useful tips on coping with itching.

The following is an extract from some of the information on their website:

  • Limit the number of baths/showers you take – use lukewarm water and very little or no soap
  • Instead of soap, use a moisturising liquid (see Body Skin category for good makes of body cleanser)
  • Pat your skin dry with a towel rather than rubbing- or use a bath robe – but don’t forget to dry your feet!
  • Drying the skin thoroughly reduces the chance of chaffing and fungal infection
  • Moisturise your skin straight after you bathe
  • Wear cotton and linen, rather than wool or man made materials which can irritate the skin (If you must have wool, cashmere is less likely to irritate – of course, it would be the most expensive!)
  • Keep your bedclothes light
  • Try to keep an even, cool temperature in your room, as getting hot can make itching worse
  • Drink plenty of fluids – preferably water (2 to 3 litres a day)
  • Keep your nails short to reduce the risk of scratching your skin

They do say avoid scented lotions, but as Lavender and Rose were used as antiseptics, if you want to smell nice, make sure that any product you use uses the best oils – not harsh chemical scents.

And these are really helpful tips on what to do when you want to scratch:

  • It can sometimes help to gently pinch an area of skin close to the itch
  • Rub, tap or press the area
  • Put a cool pack on the skin
  • Gently apply more moisturiser

If all else fails on a hot night – I used to run a lukewarm bath, put in some good bath milk – the sort that moisturises your skin – and soak until the itching had disappeared.  Then get out, wrap myself in a bath towel or robe until I was dry, and by then usually the itch had disappeared.

I then used a light but good body moisturiser all over, as so often itching was caused by dry, dry skin – so keeping it moist and healthy helped get rid of much of the itching.

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3 thoughts on “Expert advice before you scratch

  1. Anna January 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm Reply

    Since chemo my regular doctor recommended certain lotions, soaps, even prescribed a cream for me to rub on my body when itching. What she fails to understand is that the itching happens in spurts from the inside out and I’m scratching thru out the day. I will try these recommendations but a think there should be something more defined that can help us. Thanks.

    • Verite Reily Collins January 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm Reply


      I totally agree with you – and if you are having really bad problems my suggestions (and remember I am NOT medically qualified – ONLY a patient!) is to try 1) La Roche Posay skincare range, or 2) if you are in States try iS Clinical. You can buy both online, but LRP is also sold in chemists around the world. Both have been developed in cancer hospitals, so are ‘stronger’ than the usual over-the-counter remedies. Whenever I have really bad itching I slap them on. When I first had problems I put skin cream on three/four times a day – now it is once a day, unless things are bad then it’s twice. I don’t know where you live, but you could try finding a Dermatologist who ‘uses’ these products – then you usually have a goodie who understands what we go through as cancer patients.
      Incidentally, for feet use Flexitol – an Australian product developed for cancer patients, and now sold around the world.
      Good luck, and let me know how you get on. Verite

  2. Bev August 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm Reply

    Hi, know what you are feeling like with the itching, Underwent 6 months of chemo last year for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia and now in clinical remission but starting itching 3 month post treatment and it has continued. Any ideas to stop this would be appreciated.

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