A robust clinical study at the base
ASST (Azienda Socio Sanitaria Territoriale) of Bergamo East conducted a study concerning the psychological-dermatological well-being of patients undergoing cancer therapy.
In 2019, In Italy, about 175000 women received a cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed malignancy in the Italian population (AIOM, 2019). Among the various anticancer therapies, the most common are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. However, these treatments, which are increasingly effective in cancer treatment, cause side effects that can lead to lower compliance with therapy and have a great impact on women’s lives, negatively affecting patients’ well-being and quality of life (Oliveri et al., 2019).
You can read the full study and its findings by downloading it as a PDF.
The clinical study
The present study aims to investigate the impact that dermatological side effects have on the perception of Body Image and quality of life of cancer patients. Specifically, we hypothesized that the use of dermatological products specifically for the iatrogenic effects of cancer treatment may reduce skin-related symptoms, consequently improving women’s well-being and quality of life, as well as compliance with therapy.
The study was conducted on a group of women with an oncological diagnosis enrolled at the U.O.C. Oncology Unit of ASST Bergamo East. To participate in the study, women had to have been diagnosed with breast cancer, be undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and be over 30 years old. Women with ongoing psychiatric and/or neurological disorders and past cancer treatments were excluded from the study.
Sixty-one women participated in the research, divided into two groups according to the treatment they were undergoing: radiotherapy or chemotherapy. After dividing them according to treatment, each group was again divided by a randomized procedure, that is, randomly, into two groups: Experimental Group and Control Group. Women assigned to the experimental group were given Oncos cream, a product specifically for treating the side effects of cancer treatments; women in the control group, on the other hand, were given generic cream (Vaseline).
The study lasted 28 days, during which the women were asked to use their assigned cream daily.
In addition, at 3 times (T0, first administration of the dermatological product; T1, after 7 days of product use; T2, after 28 days of product use) women were asked to fill in:
1. Socio-demographic and clinical-anamnestic sheet: collects socio-demographic (age, marital status, education, employment status, region of origin) and clinical information (diagnosis, age of diagnosis, date of start of treatment histological, receptor and genetic examination, protocol of
2. Skindex-16 (Chren et al., 2001): a self-administered instrument that measures the effects of dermatological disorders on health-related quality of life. It investigates these aspects in 3 dimensions: symptomatology, emotional functioning, and social functioning. Higher scores indicate a higher level of discomfort or concern.
3. The Body Image Scale (Hopwood et al., 2001; Cheli et al., 2016): a self-administered instrument that aims to measure affective, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms related to Body Image in cancer patients. It consists of 10 items in which we investigate how the person feels about his or her physical appearance and any changes that may result from the disease or the
treatment (“Did you feel less physically attractive because of the disease or treatment?” “Did you have difficulty looking at your naked body?”). The higher the scores obtained, the greater the level of body image disturbance.
4. Quality of Life Assessment Test – Short Version (WHOQOL-Bref) – (WHOQOL
Group, 1995; Italian Collaborating Center WHOQOL Project, 2000): is a self-report instrument that aims to investigate individual perceptions of quality of life in general overall and in 4 specific domains: physical health (“To what extent do physical pains prevent you from doing the things you
needs to do?”), psychological health (“Are you satisfied with yourself?”), social relationships (“Are you satisfied with your personal relationships with others?”) and your environment (“Do you have the opportunity to engage in leisure activities in your free time?”). It consists of 26 items expressing how much satisfaction the respondent has with the individual aspects of life surveyed.
The aim of the study was to evaluate whether the use of a specific cosmetic product (Oncos) designed to mitigate dermatological side effects can have a positive impact not only on the decrease of symptoms, but also on the perception of one’s Body Image and the perception of well-being in women who have received a cancer diagnosis.
At the first administration of the questionnaires, women in all groups showed high levels in all dimensions concerning the effects of symptoms on health-related quality of life, meaning that before starting to use the treatment all women had side effects that
impacted their quality of life. After 7 days of using the product, patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment belonging to the experimental group (those who used Oncos) showed visible improvement in these aspects. This improvement is even more evident after 28 days
of use, not only in the experimental group treated with radiotherapy, but also in the experimental group treated with chemotherapy. In contrast, this is not the case in the control groups, thus in women who used a generic product. From these early data, it can be inferred that the use of a specific cosmetic product is a key factor in reducing symptomatology, and consequently brings improvement in emotional and social functioning.
Daily use of the dermatological product had a positive impact, not only in reducing dermatological symptoms, but also in affective, behavioral, and cognitive aspects related to Body Image. At T0 all women showed high scores on the Body Image Scale: this means that initially all women showed some discomfort in their body perception. Scientific literature had already pointed out that women undergoing treatment for breast cancer experience changes in physical appearance that are often accompanied by shame, low self-esteem, and social avoidance. Again, women in the experimental groups (those using Oncos) showed an improvement in their perception of their bodies, with greater awareness and satisfaction. This improvement is present already after 7 days for women treated with radiotherapy and is found after 28 days for women treated with chemotherapy.
In contrast, women in the control groups, that is, those who used a generic product, do not show the same improvements over time.
We know that receiving a cancer diagnosis forces women to confront various challenges and difficulties that can have an indelible impact on their quality of life. In this study, we considered quality of life in the aspects of physical and psychological health, quality of social relationships and environment. During the study, women who used the Oncos product showed a gradual improvement in their perception of their quality of life in the above-mentioned aspects. Thus, the use of the specific cosmetic product leads women to have less pain and discomfort than dermatological problems, but also to higher self-esteem and better social relationships. In other words, the
improvement in quality of life seems to be influenced by improvement in skin-related problems. This is consistent with the idea that good health is not only represented by the absence of disease, but what matters to people is also general physical and psychological well-being.
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