- Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home: A Guide for Patients and Families
- Anxiety and fear
- Appetite, poor
- Blood counts
- Blood in stool
- Blood in urine
- Fluids and dehydration
- Grooming and appearance
- Hair loss
- Leg cramps
- Mouth, bleeding in
- Mouth dryness
- Mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Scars and wounds
- Shortness of breath
- Skin color changes
- Skin dryness
- Skin (pressure) sores
- Sleep problems
- Steroids and hormones
- Stomas (or ostomies)
- Swallowing problems
- Treatment at home
- Tubes and IV lines
- Weight changes
- When death is approaching
- To learn more
Scars and wounds
A wound is a physical injury to the body that causes disruption in body structure. The wound may be present only under the skin, may affect only the skin surface, or may involve both. An incision from surgery is a wound. A wound also can be caused by a fall or accident, tumor growth, pressure on bony areas, or the side effects of radiation therapy. Proper care for a wound is important to protect the wound from infection and help it heal. Scars are healed wounds.
What to look for
- Redness or purple bruising of skin
- Scaly, broken skin (See the section called "Skin (pressure) sores.")
- Crusts, scabs, or cuts in the skin
- Drainage or pus
- Warmth or heat at the affected area
What the patient can do
- Wash your hands well before and after changing wound dressing. Never re-use dressings.
- Always keep the wound clean. Unless you were given different instructions, clean the wound every day with soap and water, rinse well, and pat it dry with a clean towel.
- Dress wounds as instructed by the doctor or nurse, or use sterile, non-stick gauze. If possible, use paper tape.
- Keep your dressing clean and dry. If it gets wet or dirty, change it right away.
- If the wound is bleeding, clean it well and apply moderate pressure with a cool cloth or ice pack until the bleeding stops. Then continue with dressing change.
- If possible, do not place tape directly on skin. (Use a "skin prep" solution, or wrap gauze over the bandage and then tape the gauze. Check with your nurse or pharmacist about supplies.)
- Avoid scratching or rubbing the wound or removing scabs.
- Eat citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, meat, fish, and eggs. They contain vitamins and minerals that help promote wound healing.
What caregivers can do
- Help clean wounds or change dressings if the patient is unable to do it for themselves. If you can, wear a fresh pair of disposable plastic gloves each time you clean the area and put on a new dressing. Wash your hands before and after changing a dressing, even if you wear gloves.
- Be sure the patient has enough supplies to change the dressing as often as you were instructed.
- Check for signs of infection.
Call the doctor if the patient:
- Has a wound that bleeds for 15 minutes or more
- Has a wound that looks very red around the edges and is hot or swollen
- Has more pain than usual at the wound site
- Develops a bad smell from the wound
- Has yellow pus or greenish liquid that oozes from the wound
- Has a fever of 100.5° F or higher when taken by mouth
Last Medical Review: 03/24/2011
Last Revised: 08/11/2011