Chemotherapy drugs burning the skin..

Just wondered if anyone else has experienced a burn on their hand or arm from chemotherapy drugs leaking out into the skin. I have got this and at first (2 wks ago) it was diagnosed as cellulitis - red, burning skin - but today doctor said, no and that it was to do with the chemo. Having a PICC line fitted on Wednesday as veins are very small. Just wondered though about anyone’s experiences of leakage of drugs under the skin…

Bright x

Hi Bright,

I saw a picture of your arm on your hair loss thread and it looked awful!

I had a small leak of FEC whilst it was being administered and I have to say it wasn’t something I could have not noticed happening! I started to get a pain in my arm that was toe curling and I had to deep breath to keep a grip until the chemo nurse came back (she had wandered off).

The amount that leaked must have been tiny as the Onc was called to have a look at it and he just advised me to let them know if I developed any other problems as it can destroy tissue and gave me some hydrocortisone to rub on. Basically the skin (about an inch by half an inch) became very red (almost like a burn) but that was the only outward sign. It went down within a few days and now (3 months on) you can still see where it leaked as I have a brown almost scar like mark where it leaked.

Having seen your picture I would be surprised if it was chemo leakage as I would have thought you would have felt it in my experience - it would have been agony! If it was chemo leakage however then I would imagine someone would want to be looking seriously at whether any long term serious damage has been caused to the tissues in your arm and if they are not then I would insist as you may be left with some serious scarring let alone tissue damage.

Sorry I couldn’t be more help, hope you get answers.

Hi Ostrich,

Thanks for your reply. Well I spent all day at the hospital today and must have seen a record number of consultants. My arm affliction has been confirmed as a chemo leak - in fact the worst they have seen. There is going to be an inquiry in the chemo dept as to how it happened, why no one spotted it and to ensure it does not happen to anyone else. My arm did not hurt that much at the time, but now really is quite painful. It is now bandaged up and I need to change the dressings daily. For now my chemo is suspended until my arm is sorted out. I have been told it should heal by Easter but that i will be left with scarring rather like a burn. Hoping of course it is not too bad.

I wish you well with your treatment.

Love Bright xx

Hi Bright,

That’s terrible that they didn’t spot it when the chemo was going in! To end up with such a bad burn!

I hope their enquiry finds something because this shouldn’t happen to anyone else (and shouldn’t have happened to you).

I hope it heals well and you don’t have any long term probs. My burn still itches and is a bit sore sometimes but its nothing compared to your burn!

Best of luck for the rest of your treatment and if you have to have the hickman line (I saw your post on Hair Loss).

I too had chemo burns on arms and hands…my oncology doc didn’t even look at it…he sent me to see their nurse practitioner…she said it was from a leak from IV…gave steroids but nothing for burning and pain…said to take Tylenol.I bought burn gel from pharmacy.

Unfortunate to experience a burn like that. Hope it’s progressing well. Although I didn’t have the same kind of burn I’m convinced that chemo caused a sort of burning via urination. After chemo I would spend the following 3 days doing nothing but drinking lots and lots of water to flush the bladder and remove the toxins. My life was drinking, resting and running to the bathroom. During the second session I noticed the same irritation to my skin in the nether regions. It dawned on me that it was possibly the strength of my urine was causing it. I started washing myself well after every penny I spent and I was never bothered again.

I had a similar burn on my forearm, it was a large black mass that would not clear up and no-one seemed to have any answers. I used a cream called silver sulpher diazine. Within 4 days I could see the difference and within a month it was cleared up.

I used the cream under a large waterproof plaster and changed it every day. i used liberal amounts of the cream and the result was nothing short of miraculous considering nothing elase seemed to have any effect whatsoever. 

Hope that helps.

@brightlight28, very interesting to read your experience. My first chemo was put in my hand vein about 6 days later I got the symptoms of cellulitis in my wrist and up my arm, starting about an inch from the cannula site. I went straight to A&E as advised on reading material and was given antibiotics.

Sorry to hear about your problems. I had a port a cath fitted which avoided anything like that - could you ask if you could have one for the rest of your treatment?

Hi Bright. I too had a chemo burn. My first infusion burned and I let the nurse know. I told her twice. It wasn’t too bad and the infusion continued. A week later I noticed what seemed to be a bruise. Then it grew into the shape of an M on the top of my hand. Next infusion they took pictures of my hand to document it and said the chemo leaked out. Second infusion a different nurse did my IV and no problem. This last Tuesday for my third infusion a different nurse did the IV (first nurse asked her to do it and second nurse wasn’t there). So a third nurse did it and it burned the whole time to where I was in a lot of pain. She had the nerve to tell me “sometimes it’s in your head”. The original first nurse came back and pulled that IV out and started an new one. No pain after she changed it. Well, as of today (3 days post infusion) I’m all bruised where the last IV was given. I’m over it. Glad I only have one more infusion, but man how hard can it be?