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Patient-reported symptoms of radiation dermatitis during breast cancer radiotherapy: a pilot study

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To find out which symptoms most frequently and severely affect breast cancer patients during radiotherapy and how patients manage the symptoms and unmet needs.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted with 111 patients who receive radiotherapy for breast cancer from January to April 2015 at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. Participants were asked about symptoms and discomfort due to radiotherapy, management methods for radiation dermatitis, unmet needs for radiation dermatitis care, and clinical and socio-demographic information.


Of total, 108 out of 111 patients (97.3%) reported symptoms related to radiation dermatitis. Hyperpigmentation was the most commonly reported uncomfortable symptom followed by erythema. On average, patients reported 8.6 radiotherapy-induced skin problems (range, 0–11). Of total, 59 (53.2%) patients stated that they wanted care for radiation dermatitis, and 80.0, 59.4, and 51% of patients searched for information, used products, and visited the hospital to manage radiotherapy-related skin problems. Patients who experienced dryness, burning feelings, irritation, roughness, and hyperpigmentation were 11.73, 7.02, 5.10, 4.27, and 2.80 times more likely to have management needs than patients without those symptoms, respectively, adjusting age, current cycle of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and type of surgery.


Most of the breast cancer patients experience multiple symptoms associated with radiation dermatitis. Hyperpigmentation was the most common and uncomfortable symptom followed by erythema. Majority of patients wanted management for radiation dermatitis and patients who experienced dryness, burning feelings, irritation, roughness, and hyperpigmentation had higher needs for radiation dermatitis management.

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Correspondence to Won Park.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board of Samsung Medical Center, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Lee, J., Park, W., Choi, D.H. et al. Patient-reported symptoms of radiation dermatitis during breast cancer radiotherapy: a pilot study. Qual Life Res 26, 1713–1719 (2017).

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