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Losing Your Fingernails to Chemo

Monday, March 22, 2010

Did you know chemotherapy can make your fingernails turn black and fall off? As if a diagnosis of breast cancer isn’t bad enough, my oncologist gave me that gruesome tidbit the morning of my second chemotherapy. He also warned me not to cut my cuticles and hangnails and not to floss my teeth until after I was finished with chemo. In addition, he suggested I avoid manicures, pedicures and the use of artificial nails all together.

Because our immune system is compromised more than usual during treatment, defending us from both the cancer and the chemotherapy, any nick or cut especially on our fingers and in our mouths, could result in a serious infection requiring antibiotics and/or hospitalization. By the way, “Lilly,” who is battling ovarian cancer on The Young & The Restless, was given the same cautionary fingernail warning by her “doctor.” Yes, I watch The Young & The Restless. There! I’ve said it, and I feel better now. <PREVIEWEND>

Before chemo, my nails had a tendency to split, and I was prone to have hangnails. The thought of them getting worse during treatment and not being able to do anything about it became a huge concern. Somehow I got the idea to buy cuticle cream. What magic stuff. Everyday after my second chemotherapy, I rubbed cuticle cream into my nails and cuticles and everyday, my ragged hangnails visibly improved and my nails got stronger.

At every subsequent doctor’s appointment my oncologist would inspect my nails and say, “Maybe next time,” implying that between now and my next chemo, my fingernails might give birth to Swamp Thing and begin to fall off. And at every appointment thereafter, he was amazed my nails looked better and better.  

I’ve sometimes wondered if the nightly massaging with the cream not only repaired my cuticles and nails but increased blood flow to my nail bed as well, thus keeping them from falling off. There are several cuticle creams on the market. If you’re going through chemo, pick the one with the least fragrance so it lessens your chance of becoming nauseated by the smell.  Cuticle cream is one of the best things I discovered during chemo and is something I continue to use, and my nails look great.

Back to that Young & The Restless thing… Since I’m generally a couple of weeks behind, please, don’t anyone tell me how Sharon learns the terrible truth about Adam.

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Previous Comments
Anonymous commented on 25-Mar-2010 12:17 PM
I've had breast cancer twice & doctor never told me anything about this. I did get mouth sores & then he said don't floss. Thank you for telling us this.
Anonymous commented on 21-May-2010 04:45 AM

Thank you for your comments about the cuticle cream. I am on Taxotere for metasticized breast cancer and also on Xeloda. Thus, I have terrible problems with hand and foot syndrome (from Xeloda, oral chemo). Trying to get past that.

Regarding nails, I have fifth chemo tomorrow and just started to have nails turning brown and nail beds hurting. As I still have four Taxotere treatments to go, I have been trying to find some info about prevention. I will try the massaging of cuticle cream. I already massage all kinds of creams onto hands and feet for hand and foot syndrome. And I wear cotton gloves to bed every night and most of every day when condition worsens.

The pharmacist at the cancer treatment center told me to use tee tree oil on nails on hands and feet twice a day. If it works and I don't lose nails, I'll come back here and post it. Thank you again for your information. I hope you are doing well.


Anonymous commented on 23-May-2010 05:21 PM
I never used cream on my hands and feet, but was faithful about massaging cuticle cream into my nails and cuticles. I do think it was the stimulation of the nail bed, increased blood flow to the nails that saved them. I so hope you don't lose your nails. You've got enough to contend with. Please let me know how you're doing.

Wishing you all God's blessings,
PS: I am doing great, thank you for asking, and thank you, God.
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 06:45 PM
Dear Brenda,
Please don't think I did not answer your e-mail. The return address didn't do through. I would be happy to speak with you any time. My husband would have. He died three and a half years ago, It was another form of cancer that took him, not breast cancer. I do think his cancer reappeared from too much treatment when his did have the breast cancer. I am looking forward to your book!

All the best,
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 07:33 PM
My daughter-in-law just told me about your blog. I am a 4yr survivor and would love to stay in touch with you.
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 07:52 PM
Olive oil works, too (no preservatives and it’s got omega’s!)
You are right: it’s because of the increased blood flow as well as the emollients in the cream. Good information!

Can’t WAIT to see when you are gonna talk about the “vajayjay” issues.
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 07:52 PM
Thank You this is good to know I knew hair came out but when I think about it they are both protein
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 07:53 PM
That's great to know. Another suggestion is gelatin. I put it in my orange juice each morning and it makes my nails stronger. How are things going with your mother, or shouldn't I ask! Love
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 07:54 PM
Merely terrfic! I pass all of your blogs on to those who NEED to read it.

Many thanks!
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 08:01 PM
I’m going to run right out and get cuticle cream, thanks. Everyone should avoid hangnails, etc., because of SARS (antibiotic-resistant staph).
Anonymous commented on 04-Jan-2011 02:25 PM
Thank you for this information. My husband was recently diagnosed with leukemia and has had a similar problem with his nails turning black and his thumb nail has fallen off and many others have broken. So, with that said, I gotta run because I am going straight to health & beauty for cuticle cream! Thank you so much for this bit of information and for sharing your journey. I know it isn't an easy one.
Anonymous commented on 05-Jan-2011 03:59 AM
There are a lot of articles on the web about this. But i like your’s too, although i found one that’s more descriptive
Anonymous commented on 05-Jan-2011 03:59 AM
There are a lot of articles on the web about this. But i like your’s too, although i found one that’s more descriptive

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