Points to consider when pedicuring cancer patients
By Sophie Nutt | 02 February 2019 | Expert Advice, Feature
While hands are almost always on show and manicures can often be seen to take priority, it’s imperative to remind your clients of the importance of regular foot care.
However, while many professionals already know what makes for a classic or luxurious pedicure, occasionally a client may visit your salon with a health burden or lifestyle factor that could impact on how their pedicure should be approached and performed. This includes knowing how to cater to those who are suffering from cancer.
Cancer comes in many forms and sufferers are treated in a variety of ways, resulting in a number of different side effects. Therefore, it is important for therapists to gain understanding and the correct training before performing a treatment on a client undergoing treatment for cancer.
“There are many different types of cancer, cancer treatments and side effects of treatments, and a pedicure for one client affected by cancer might not be the same as a pedicure for another,” comments Jennifer Young, founder of Jennifer Young and Beauty Despite Cancer, The Jennifer Young Training School. “Clients who are no longer in treatment have different vulnerabilities from those still actively in treatment. In general, avoid enhancements and don’t do any invasive work. Be aware that the skin on hands and feet can be affected by cancer treatment and nails can become damaged, ridged, fragile and loose. Some clients will have lost nails due to cancer treatment.”
“There are many different types of cancer, cancer treatments and side effects of treatments, and a pedicure for one client affected by cancer might not be the same as a pedicure for another,” – Jennifer Young, founder of Jennifer Young and Beauty Despite Cancer, the Jennifer Young Training School.
Similarly, Dr Bharti Rajput MBE advises against using any product that may irritate the skin while ensuring all tools used throughout the treatment are at their optimum hygiene level. “Some cancer treatments can affect the growth of skin cells or small blood vessels in the hands and feet. This can result in loss of toenails and skin peeling on the soles of the feet,” she reveals. “The client’s immune system will also be impaired so ultimate hygiene procedures in the nail salon/foot clinic are always recommended.
“Be careful about using certain products, lotions and potions that have specific aromatherapy oils as this may irritate the skin. Also, be careful of where the client may have a lot of tenderness around the peeling skin and how much skin you can safely remove off the soles of the feet.”
Emphasising the need for quality training, it is important to understand the precautionary steps required when performing a pedicure on those with cancer. “A patient in active treatment showing cuts on her toes, caused by the technician filing her nails as part of a pedicure,” comments Jennifer Young. “The client had not felt the skin being cut by the file as she experiences a reduced sensation caused by her chemotherapy drugs. The open wounds make her much more vulnerable to infection and her lowered immune system means that any infection is very serious.”
However, treating cancer patients without full knowledge of side effects or possible vulnerabilities may not only put the client’s health at risk, but also that of the professional. “A few of the drugs used in cancer treatments can cause harm to the therapist as they are excreted through the skin at a very specific interval after a chemotherapy session,” Jennifer Young continues. “The risk of harm to the therapist is tiny but most therapists like to have the detailed information so that they can make their own decision about the timing of treatments and what information to gather during consultations.”
Jennifer Young also shares the common conditions that nail technicians should be aware of when treating a client affected by cancer:
- Lowered immunity
- Sensitive skin
- Reactive skin
- Damaged nails
- Loose nails
- Peripheral neuropathy (reduced sensation in the hands and/or feet, or heightened sensations in the hands and/or feet)
- Redness, flaking skin and shedding skin on the palms of the hands/soles of the feet
“Some of these side effects are visible and some are in no way obvious, but lowered immunity and peripheral neuropathy should be of particular concern to nail technicians when performing a pedicure.”