Nails and cancer


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Well-Known Member
May 25, 2005
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I've just been talking to another journalist about beauty treatments for people who have/are recovering from cancer. I've read some posts here about techs still being able to do nails with most people, but I was wondering if any of the companies offer any specific training for treating people who've had/have cancer and other serious illnesses (and if not, is that something you would like them to offer?), or if anyone here specialises in doing nails for patients/ex-patients, or does the Look Good, Feel Better programme?
I'm not writing about this (well, not at the moment anyway!), I'm just curious, be really interested in your responses.
Rachael x
Freelance journalist
Rachael Glazier
they did mention cancer on my course mainly that u can do treatments such as manicures but u can not massage
I'd like there to be some specific training, although realistically I'm not sure how it could be done as the side effects seem to be so random and individual.

One of my friends (and subsequent client) is currently undergoing radiotherapy and her nails are in a terrible state. She managed most of her chemo with no major problems, then they changed it to something she was allergic too which threw her immune system completely out of synch. Now she has massive onycholsis on all fingers, it's that bad she's expecting to lose most of them completely. I haven't seen them as she's not comfortable with going out at the moment, but I saw them a few weeks back when it had just started.

I recommended lost of Solar Oil and keeping them as short as possible to minimise and possible impact damage or catching them, but I feel so helpless. She's looking to me for advice and support and I have nothing concrete to tell her other than it will get better and use your Solar Oil. It makes me sad that I don't have a miracle cure for her.

Conversely, my hairdresser, who has just completed her chemo and radiotherapy had lovely strong nails, probably better than normal, although she did have a few days off work after each cycle of treatment so maybe the lack of hairwashing and chemicals actually helped with hers.

I usually have the answer for most things regarding nails, or can find one, and I'm frustrated at not knowing definitively in these cases.
I think people who have cancer or are recovering from cancer would not wish to be reminded of the fact during a manicure. It would be impossible to market such a treatment specific for cancer sufferers, in my opinion. My clients who have been through this just want to be pampered and enjoy massage as anyone else would, an arm massage is not going to affect their circulation or medication. I have clients who have been given aromatherapy massage on the NHS during their radiotherapy so it must be safe and definately benificial to their recovery.

I know some clients whos nails have not been affected by their condition and others who have been however treatment for their nail problems e.g peeling, spliting would be the same as for someone who was without cancer but had bad nails.

I think yes it is good for therapists to be aware of certain medical conditions but to make a separate treatment and single them out, not such a good idea. This is better done in the therapists head with a sensitive treatment plan :)
I think people who have cancer or are recovering from cancer would not wish to be reminded of the fact during a manicure.

I think this is a really good point. I suppose what I was trying to find out, and what Trinity has highlighted, is if the effects of different drugs etc are just too wide-ranging to be covered.

Apparently in France and Germany, however, beauty therapists (not sure about nail techs, sorry) often have specific training to help people recovering as certain treatments can help their skin, for example, which in turn can boost confidence etc (which may also reduce the likelihood of them not continuing with their drugs, the rate of which is quite high in the UK). It's not that common to find a beauty therapist in the UK though who is trained (or highlights the fact that they are trained) in helping those with cancer use the best skincare for what they are going through at that point in time.

I suppose it is more of a case of using what skills you have to treat what is in front of you? I just wonder if specific training would give more people the confidence to offer nail services in this situation. I'm not suggesting a separate treatment as I agree, bit insensitive, but perhaps more awareness, as hesitation as to whether you can do their nails or not might make them feel like they are a special case, which as you rightly point out they shouldn't. Plus might help in situations like Trinity's.

Sorry, all a bit rambling as typing as I think!

Thanks for your replies, really interesting.

Having several clients I notice that it has a lot to do with there own bodys how they handle things and what they do with that I have a very close freind who at this time you could not tell she is dealing with cancer. she states that "she is sick not dieing" i guess its all how you and your suport system works. But as the others stated i think this should be kept a personal matter and if a client tells you then sure try and help but don't single them out again this is just my own opition
Hi all,

My mum has advanced cancer, she has had chemotherapy and her nails are still perfect. She has p&w enhancements and loves them, i even did them in the hospice she was at! before she was diagnosed her nails were yellow, i put it down to smoking, alchohol handwash and everyday life. not the fact it was cancer, jaundice is a symptom of pancreatic cancer.

she had a operation to get rid of the jaundice and from that day her nails have been perfect. please be wary if anyone comes to you with really yellow nails. if i had known we could maybe of caught the cancer quicker and it could of been treatable. i think its up to the individual, but do be careful of what treatment they are having.
Hi Rachel

It's great to see a journalist on here looking at what a part of the industry has to say about everything.

In my opinion, there is no text book answer on how to deal with clients who have or have had cancer. The only way to deal with this is to address the condition of the nails and skin as they are presented.

Any technician who understands the area they are dealing with will assess the condition as it is presented at the time. They should ask very general questions (without probing) that may give some indication as to the reason for any specific condition they can see.

A technician cannot enter into any diagnosis situation. It is not only cancer and its treatment that has an effect on the nails and skin. There are many, many systemic conditions that can affect the condition of the nails.

If a technician is educated correctly into the proper procedure of an appropriate client consultation, the nail and surrounding skin condition presented to them will be dealt with accordingly. If there is any doubt at all in the safety of the requested service, the technician should decline and suggest that the client seeks the advice of their medical consultant.

I don't see that cancer or the results of its treatment should be any different from any other medical condition.

The point is a good education in the consultation process and the understanding of conditions that restrict, prevent or allow the service appropriate or asked for by the client.

There are some very distressing symptoms of many conditions that affect nails. Sometimes this can be the 'last straw' when a client just wants to have pretty nails when nothing else works. A skilled technician will know what can be provided safely. No risks, just giving their client something that makes them feel better. This cannot be taught! Professionalism and experience will provide this.
My best mate has a terminal disease.. while it wont kill her tomorrow it will slowly take its toll.. she was given 10 years to live.. 10 years ago.. now its just a "wait and see how we go....":irked:

She is reminded daily of what she has.. her body is basicaly fighting itself and as such everyday is a new problem for her..
once a week she comes to me and we spend a good 3 hours on her hands.. we gossip we laugh.. sometimes we cry.. but without those 3 hours i think she would be worse.. hell i know i would be without those few hours with her.. she is the reason i appreciate life so much.. how can one person be put through so much and still laugh like she does?? while i do the treatments for free.. i get payed in ways i cannot explain..she is the best friend anyone can have..

her hands are lovely.. she has a few problems from the medication she is on.. like splitting epon's and oncholysos on one finger.. brittle nails.. but after a visit to the doc with her i was given the go ahead to perform enhancements..

she is 42 yrs old and so full of life.. and i can only imagine that other people are out there who would benifit from a little of what we have.. The thing with my mate is she gave up on her appearance years ago.. she became the desiease and the desease took her vitality.. in the time i have known her.. she has started to remember what feeling girly is about and how much better a little thing like lovely looking nails or hair can make you feel

can i just add.. this woman is also my neighbour and she saved me from an abusive partner.. when i felt alone and isolated she was there..a complete stranger with problems of her own gave me the will to live..without her i wouldnt have done any of this.. i wouldnt have had the guts to make a new life for myself.. so while i am alive she will have the best nails i can give her and the best friend i can be..

I think its a wonderful idea to have a programme like the one mentioned.. and urge anyone to look into it.. i know i will.. the benifits are amazing for both parties..

Hi I do my Mums nails and she is recovering from her chemotherapy , she is now on other drugs to try and keep the cancer under control ,

my Mums finger nails have altered a lot with treatment , they have gone from being really thick and strong to now paper thin and are extremely sore and split easily if knocked ,

I asked all the geeks on here if I could try applying acrylic nails as an overlay just to stop them hurting , they all agreed it was worth a try.

The nail geeks on here also advised me not to use gel as this could cause heat spike on thin sore nails (which I never even thought of )

Anyway I have been doing acrylic pink and whites on my Mums nails for a few months now and they eased the pain of the paper thin nail bed,
she loves them and likes to show them off to everyone ,

I have to be very careful as Mum is more open to infection due to the chemotherapy ,
as for massage I can massage her hands with solar oil ,
but I don't massage her arms because of swelling problems in one arm due to her op which is common.

Any how she just loves the nails :lol: and they are not painful now thanks to all the advice given from all the geeks on here :hug: x

Just to remind anyone that wants to support Breast Cancer, Asda do a fantastic range of casual clothes and PJs in their tickled pink range , really lovely x

just in case newbie geeks are not aware - some chemo drugs cause the skin to be ultra light sensitive - so use of gel ('cos of uv lamp)would not be appropriate in this case.
( i was a cancer nurse for 20 years (10 as a Macmillan nurse) until last year.)
for a time i also managed a complimentary therapy service within the nhs and we actively encouraged our patients to use aromatherapy/reflexology/kinesiology etc. in the majority of cases therapies are safe but the practitioner (whether it be nails/make-up/etc may have to take some advice. All cancer patients should have access to a specialist nurse(National Cancer Standards) who can advise the therapist/patient/client accordingly - usually without too much hassle
My very very good friend Marion battled cancer for eight years.
In the early stages she had no interest in her appearance,what with the hair gone etc. But she got over that time,and decided that she could let it control her life or she could be one of the many people Living With Cancer.

It was difficult for her to try and maintain a beauty regime as so many treatments are contra indicated,and skin tends to be sensitised to even the simplest products.It was a case of try this-and if you dont come out in a rash etc thats great.
We went away for a weekend to a lovely hotel with a Spa and thought it would be so relaxing for her only to find they did not wish to perform any treatments( and i do understand their reasons )and she said it didnt matter-but it did. I as a beauty therapist should have realised this,but as i work in a salon and not a Spa .. i sincerely thought that they would have different treatments to offer.
This year Marions daughter got married,and before the wedding naturally she wanted to look her best and wanted a set of nails and toes and an ebt/elt etc. She had it all done on the Tuesday night and i was worried that she might have a reaction.Her nails were thin and weak,and despite all the gentle care i still managed to cut her skin on two fingers-she was that delicate.
I talked her into having Creatives Studio 54 on her toes ,a mad glow in the dark outrageous fab purple .Her shoes were closed in anyway !!! We had a good laugh at that .!However she absolutely loved the attention and the results ,and stayed in my house chatting till 1 in the morning!

Her daughter got married on the Friday,sadly Marion died the next day.

But i feel that the benefits of having her make-up ,eyebrows .nails and the rest done made her feel normal,and forget about the illness for a while. The benefits in my opinion far outweigh the potential disadvantages.
I would love to have more knowledge on suitable treatments and would like any info on suitable training,because unfortunately we all know people or have clients who are Living With Cancer.
mrs o
Thanks so much for all your posts, there are some really interesting points in them as well as some inspiring stories, thanks for sharing them.

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