Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients Suffering From Treatment Side Effects

Read about some common side effects of radiation and chemotherapy and learn about products that will help you select a perfect gift for a loved one who is battling cancer.

See our most recent compilation of gift ideas and products for cancer patients during and after treatment.

Side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, making it difficult for the cancer patient to participate in a normal lifestyle. Did you know there are a number of solutions to help alleviate these cancer side effects and can help the patient recapture a more active lifestyle?

Radiation Burns

Radiation oncology can cause itchy skin (often called radiation dermatitis) as well as burns. Special creams and gel sheets can be both therapeutic and comforting. Leaves of an aloe plant can be helpful. If an actual plant is not available, aloe and calendula based creams are highly effective for healing and calming. Some products include lidocaine in their ingredients to reduce pain. Gel sheets can be refrigerated prior to use and are both cooling and soothing.

    Brands to look for:


A natural solution for nausea is ginger - either chewing a small piece of ginger,or making ginger tea. Acupressure wristbands can help control chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Ant-nausea lozenges and lollipops are also available in assorted flavors.

    Brands to look for:

Skin Issues

Cancer treatment can cause a variety of skin issues beyond radiation burns and dermatitis. In general, skin can become compromised which might mean dryness, thinness, discoloration and / or sensitivity.Luckily there are general products to help the body, special products for the face, and products to help specific conditions such as acneform rash and hand/foot syndrome.

    Brands for the body:
    Brands for the face:
    Specifically to help acneform rash:
    For hand/foot syndrome:

Hair Loss

Many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. In addition, the scalp often becomes dry and very itchy. Some shampoos, such as the complete Thymuskin product line, work to keep the hair follicles healthy and protected which can reduce hair loss and help with regrowth. Alra shampoo is gentle and effective on a dry itchy scalp and so is the Skin Free Healing Blend Hair and Body Balm. Some research suggests that use of cooling scalp caps can help prevent hair loss. The Penguin Cold Cap advertises that it improves hair retention during chemo.

Oral and Nasal Complications

Oral complications occur in almost all patients receiving radiation to the head and neck areas as well as nearly 40% of patients receiving chemotherapy. Some complications occur only during treatment while others such as dry mouth may persist for many years. Other oral and nasal issues may include mucositis (inflammation), infection, dental decay, mouth sores, bleeding, and change in taste. It is a good idea to use dental products specifically formulated for dry and sensitive mouths such as the Biotene product line, which includes mouthwash, special toothpaste, moisturizing gum, gel and spray. Other products to moisturize the oral and nasal areas include MouthKote and Pretz nasal spray. 

Nail Discoloration

During chemotherapy nails often grow more slowly and can become discolored or streaked and patchy. Paronychia is a skin infection around the nails with the main symptom of a painful red, swollen area around the nail, frequently at the cuticle. One product that can help ameliorate nail issues during treatment is the LindiSkin lip balm (yes, it helps for nails too!).

Many of the products described above have been developed by "thrivers," or individuals who battled cancer and have recovered with a passion to help others through their journey by creating a solution to a side effect that they struggled with. While side effects may be especially significant while receiving radiation and chemotherapy, some of them will linger even after treatment is complete. It is never too late to give a thoughtful, caring, and helpful cancer gift!

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