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Side Effect: Nail Changes

What are nail changes from cancer or chemotherapy?

Nail changes in patients with cancer can be caused by an underlying condition (such as diet or cancer), cancer treatment, infection, or radiation exposure. The exact mechanism behind these changes from chemotherapy is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the effect of chemotherapy drugs on rapidly dividing cells in the nail matrix and nail bed.

What do nail changes from chemotherapy look like?

Nail changes can occur in fingernails, toenails, or both. Some common nail changes include:

Nail Changes

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What types of chemotherapy treatments cause nail changes?

Chemotherapy drugs that are associated with nail changes include:

How do you prevent nail changes from chemotherapy?

Preventing nail changes during cancer treatment can be challenging, however some strategies include:

How do you treat nail changes from chemotherapy?

Some nails changes are not harmful or painful and just affect appearance. These usually do not need treatment and generally resolve once cancer treatment has completed. This includes nail discoloration, ridges or lines across the nail, thickening, pitting, and slow nail growth.

Biotin (vitamin B7) is a dietary supplement that may help to strengthen nails that are brittle. Nail lacquer or prescription nail polish can also protect splitting or delicate nails. Ask your doctor if biotin, nail lacquer, or nail polish are safe before using.

Some types of nail changes are more serious, painful, or involve an infection and require treatment. Some treatments include:

If you have any nail changes, let your doctor know as soon as possible.


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Created: October 14, 2023 Updated: October 14, 2023