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Fact sheetBMT long-term follow up fact sheets

Published on 27 Nov 2020


Skin health

This fact sheet is for people who have had a blood and marrow transplant (BMT).

BMT patients may experience health complications in the months or years following the transplant. Long-term follow up has an important role in the early detection of any health issues.

This fact sheet has general information about ways to look after your health. If you have specific concerns, speak to your BMT team or your doctor for further information and advice.

How can a BMT affect my skin?

People who have had a BMT are very susceptible to skin problems, including skin cancer, as a result of previous radiotherapy, including total body irradiation (TBI), chemotherapy, immune suppression medications and chronic graft versus host disease (GvHD).

What are the symptoms?

Some problems with your skin may include:

  • Itchy and flaky areas
  • Dry skin patches
  • Red, inflamed and sore areas
  • Lumps or boils
  • Changes in texture e.g. when the skin is woody in texture (fibrosis)
  • Stiff and inflexible skin and/or joints (scleroderma)
  • Milky white patches (vitiligo)
  • Darkening to patches of the skin (hyperpigmentation)
  • Skin cancer, which may appear as ulcerated sores that do not heal, rough or raised areas of skin or an irregular or suspicious mole.

How can skin problems be managed?

If you notice skin changes or have any concerns, you should speak to your general practitioner (GP), BMT team, haematologist or dermatologist.

While many skin conditions can be easily diagnosed sometimes it may be necessary to do a skin biopsy or arrange for review by a dermatologist. There are many options available for treatment, depending on the condition.

Some examples include:

  • skin moisturisers
  • cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen)
  • excision (surgical removal)
  • topical steroids
  • immune suppression medications
  • antihistamines (to assist with itch)
  • PUVA (ultraviolet light)
  • extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) – a procedure used to treat GvHD during which blood is removed from you, treated by a light, and given back to you.

How can I look after my skin health?

Check your skin closely each month for any changes, and see your GP immediately if you notice any new spots or spots that change colour, shape or size.

  • Have a skin check by your GP at least once a year.
  • Wear protective clothing and a hat at all times.
  • Wear a minimum of 30+ SPF sunscreen, even on cloudy days.
  • Reapply sunscreen regularly, especially after being in the water or sweating.
  • Try to avoid outdoor activities during the sun’s peak UV factor (between 11am and 3pm).
  • Ensure skin is well hydrated to avoid cracking. Use moisturiser and drink adequate amounts of water.
  • Apply moisturiser gently and after each bath or shower.
  • Avoid hot baths or showers.
  • Use alternatives to perfumed soap.
  • Avoid tanning booths.

Where can I find further information?

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