Enjoying the warm weather while undergoing cancer treatment

Summer is associated with sunny days, outdoor activities and long vacations. However, receiving a cancer diagnosis or undergoing treatment may change the way you enjoy the warmer months. While there is no “summer break” from treatment, it is still possible to celebrate this time of year and remain safe.

How can you enjoy the warmer months while undergoing chemotherapy or after receiving a cancer diagnosis? Maintaining interpersonal connection, practicing sun safety and staying hydrated are three key elements to enjoying the summer while undergoing treatment.

The enjoyment of life is of the utmost importance and maintaining your mental health is a key factor in cancer treatment. The specialists at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute work individually with each patient to design a treatment plan that allows for as much normalcy and enjoyment as possible. Voted one of Detroit’s Top Doctors in Hour Magazine, Steven Daveluy, M.D., FAAD, dermatologist and member of the Melanoma Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos Cancer Institute said, “If the patient can’t do the things they love, we will try to change the treatment. We want to know how the treatment impacts their life so we can understand and do something about it.”

The words, “you have cancer,” may bring feelings of isolation from others who may not understand the journey. However, you are never alone in the fight. Cancer has the power to change a life, but it also has the power to unite. Dr. Daveluy suggests, “Don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t struggle in silence.”

Support groups provide the opportunity for networking, learning and alleviating feelings of isolation. Karmanos team members work to connect patients and family members to support groups so they may be surrounded by those in similar circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these groups have moved online to become virtual.

In addition to mental health maintenance, it is important to take care of your physical health. Sun protection is important for cancer patients, as well as the general population. “Melanoma takes the lives of millions per year. Sunscreen has never once killed a person,” said Dr. Daveluy.

Applying SPF 50 or higher every two hours is essential to effectively protect from harmful UV rays. Some cancer medication and treatments are linked to an increased sensitivity to the sun, making preparation imperative. Enjoying an afternoon in the garden or taking the dog for a walk can still be a reality with protective attire and staying in the shade.

Your clothing can be one of the most effective ways to protect against sun damage and skin cancer. Wide-brimmed hats can protect your face, ears and neck, as opposed to just a baseball cap. Growing in popularity, Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing blocks up to 98 percent of the sun’s rays, thereby significantly reducing your sun exposure.

Some chemotherapies affect the health and appearance of the skin but good skin care habits can decrease potential skin side effects. As advised by Dr. Daveluy, regular moisturizing with fragrance-free, sensitive skin creams, lotions or balms can assist with common dryness and rashes.

Finally, staying hydrated is necessary for everyone’s well-being during the summer but is especially important for cancer patients. Dehydration is one of the common side effects of treatment and can lead to complications and organ damage. Fluids play a critical role in protecting the body’s overall function while lessening the severity of treatment side effects.

Consulting with your doctor on proper hydration is critical to maintaining sufficient hydration throughout the entire year, not just during the summer months. Staying well-hydrated during treatment can ultimately prevent the risk of dehydration and aid in the body’s overall healing.

Although cancer may have changed your summer plans, it does not take away your opportunity to live and savor the warmer months. Life may be interrupted, but it can still be thoroughly enjoyed with three careful precautions: interpersonal connections, sun protection and hydration.

The experts at Karmanos offer the very best in specialized cancer care during the summer and all year round. To schedule an appointment with the Karmanos Melanoma and Skin Cancer Multidisciplinary Team, call 1-800-KARMANOS or request an appointment online.