Purpose/objectives: To determine whether the use of mild soap and aloe vera gel versus mild soap alone would decrease the incidence of skin reactions in patients undergoing radiation therapy.
Data sources: Prospective, randomized, blinded clinical trial.
Setting: Radiation therapy outpatient clinic in a cancer center affiliated with a major teaching medical facility.
Sample: The mean age of the participants was 56 years. The group consisted of Caucasians (74%) and African Americans (26%). The ethnic mix was non-Hispanic (65%) and Hispanic (35%).
Methods: Prophylactic skin care began on the first day of radiation therapy. Patients cleansed the area with mild, unscented soap. Patients randomized into the experimental arm of the trial were instructed to liberally apply aloe vera gel to the area at various intervals throughout the day.
Findings: At low cumulative dose levels < or = 2,700 cGy, no difference existed in the effect of adding aloe. When the cumulative dose was high (> 2,700 cGy), the median time was five weeks prior to any skin changes in the aloe/soap arm versus three weeks in the soap only arm. When the cumulative dose increases over time, there seems to be a protective effect of adding aloe to the soap regimen.
Implications for nursing practice: Skin products used to treat radiation dermatitis vary among institutions. Nurses should be aware that some patients may be predisposed to skin problems. Nurses must be aware of newly developed products and research regarding these products so that effective treatment can be instituted.