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Joined: Mar 2010

Does anyone have a good remedy for itching? I'm in my third week of treatment and in addition to the soreness around my anal area and my vagina, the worst thing so far is the unbearable, incessant itching! Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

mp327's picture
Posts: 3458
Joined: Jan 2010

Hi Susan--

I had a lot of itching also and found nothing that helped. It felt as if someone was rubbing fiberglass insulation on my anal area. Miserable. I took a lot of baths and while soaking, it seemed to make it go away. That was the only brief relief I got from it. Perhaps someone else will have a recommendation. I wish you the best.

z's picture
Posts: 1336
Joined: May 2009


I had itching but mainly after treatment was over and just for a short time. Please ask your radiologist what you can do to help with that. The skin is breaking down while being burned, like an itch from a sunburn. I know I used bag balm (used on cow utters) after my radiation treatment. I would take a bath, go get zapped then come home and I would apply the bag balm, that would be soothing, along with a pain med. The radiologist is the one who gave me the bag balm. I wish you well Lori.

Posts: 62
Joined: Feb 2010

You might want to try domeboro soaks. Domeboro is OTC at the drugstore.

JDuke's picture
Posts: 443
Joined: Nov 2009

are miserable. I had "I think I might lose my mind itching". It felt like it was inside as well as outside my vaginal and rectal area. I took regular benedryl for allergy. It gave me a great deal of relief. No creams, ointments, soaks, etc., did anything to touch it for me. I would check with your Dr. before taking it. The side effect for me was drowsiness, which was not a bad thing. Hope you find some relief.
Best regards,

Posts: 53
Joined: Mar 2010

Just finished Week 3 and the itching is becoming a problem - especially at night. Not getting a lot of sleep because the itching is keeping me awake. Then, I am exhausted the next day at work. I tried Prep H cream but it really doesn't work. Neither does Aquaphor. I purchased some Domeboro at Walgreens. The instructions list 1, 2 or 3 packets of powder to 16oz of water. But, I was going to use it in the bathtub, but that is way more that 16oz of water. Did you use a sitz bath instead? Or did you just use more packets in a bath? The package also indicates that iy is an astringent - is there a problem with drying out the area and making things worse?

Do pain pills help with the itching? I need to get some sleep!

Thanks for your time to provide more details on what might help.


Posts: 62
Joined: Feb 2010

I used the domeboro in 16 oz. of water and soaked compresses in it and applied it to my burned areas.

Maybe your doctor will prescribe some ambien (sleeping pills) that may help you stay asleep.

Good luck with it.


lizdeli's picture
Posts: 558
Joined: Jul 2009

The internal, incessant itching drove me insane!!!!! I think it was the worst part of the treatment, brought me to tears and kept me up every single night for weeks. No creams helped since in my case it was internal. I wish I had some advice for you...it does go away but it's terrible. I remember during one of my long chemo treatments I was in the room crying and pacing with all the stuff hooked up to me. Nurse came in and asked if I was in pain and I said no but this damn itching is going to drive me crazy. She got me two bags of ice and made me lay down on them. It froze my butt and helped for a little while. The itching went away after radiation finished - but it was terrible.

Sorry I'm not much help....


Posts: 30
Joined: Mar 2010

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. It's really great to have a place to vent, specific to our rare issues. The nurse practitioner at my medical oncologist's office suggested Witch Hazel, and I actually got some relief from it, even though I was pretty much up all last night. I'm a little afraid it has a drying effect, but the itching is so unbearable, I'm not sure I care. And after I apply it, I use some Silvadene or Aquafor, and it seems to help. I did try to take a Benadryl, and it worked for a few hours, but then wore off. I can't really take it during the day because I have small children to care for. Also, I did get a little relief from an ice pack and also the Domeboro, but everything wears off quickly. It's comforting to know that others had this same problem. It's scary to think I'm already having these issues and I'm not even half-way through treatment. The radiation nurse said, "It's gonna get a lot worse." Yikes!!

JDuke's picture
Posts: 443
Joined: Nov 2009

The good news is that the recovery after you complete your radiation is very swift. Just keep telling yourself you can do this and before you know it you will have gotten to the other side of all this discomfort. Keep asking any questions you may have. The combined experience of the members here is so valuable. Take care.

Posts: 489
Joined: Dec 2009

Half way through it is cause to celebrate:). I'm always trying to find a reason to do that!!!
My onc told me how horrible it was going to be, and you know I was so prepared for the worst, it was actually better than what they said. And to Joanne's point, once you get through treatment, you start feeling better quick. My biggest problem was just literally how bad it hurt to go to the bathroom. I would curl up in a ball on my bed afterward. I could not believe the pain. They kept giving me things, and NOTHING seemed to work. But you get through it, and amazingly enough within a year, you are almost back to normal. It is just so amazing how much we can go through and come back from. Our bodies are incredible.

pjjenkins's picture
Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2009

I don't have much to add. I actually upped my pain med a bit (an extra "5") when it was too bad. I tried every skin cream on the market I think. It does end and in retrospect, I know I was itching for the cure! I am now a 2 1/2 year survivor! Hang in! It does NOT get worse!

Posts: 45
Joined: Dec 2008

I am an 18 month survivor of anal cancer, treated at Sloan Kettering in NYC. Itching was a real problem during treatment and for a few weeks after. I used a visualization exercise that really helped me. I would imagine the itch being on another part of my body such as a leg or arm and scratch there. Amazingly it afforded relief. Try it if you like, you have nothing to lose. If it works for you let me know. Thanks.

winnipeg's picture
Posts: 24
Joined: Apr 2010

My itching was worse at night. By the way, I got chemo for 7 months before I had any radiation. The chemo got rid of the anal tumor within days, or at least the pain and itching. So I surmise that much of the itching current patients are experiencing is due to radiation, not cancer, if that makes you feel any better. For context, I finished radiation in Oct 2008 and am still free of disease, though much went on between times. I no longer have my anus, but it had stopped itching well before 4/2009 when it and my rectum were bade good riddance and sent to sulk in a jar at City of Hope. Little bastards tried to kill me! Ha! Me and stoma get along like a house on fire and plus, she's good for all kinds of excuses. "I have to leave, or a volcano of--" "Uh, yes, Caroline. You may GO! Mindy, get the door for her!"

I recommend:
Topical Lidocaine gel: Magic bullet. Have your MD prescribe it. Numbing agent. Works well within minutes and lets you stop rubbing and fall asleep.

Cannabis: General anti-inflammatory agent. By prescription in some states. Can be taken orally as an oil used in cooking. Slow acting and also induces a few hours' sleep. Not sure if Marinol, the FDA-approved mainstream medication, carries with it the anti-inflammatory properties of the plants whose effects it partly reproduces.

Witch Hazel: It's the main ingredient in Preparation H anyway, and this way you get it without any additives or oils. (We are told to avoid applying oils during radiation; more on that below.)

Jojoba Oil: [Caveat: Penetrating oils are said to make your potential skin injury from radiation worse. But if they let your skin be more injured, is it not because more rays pass through your skin than if it were not made translucent by the oil? Not to be an idiot, but does that not imply that more rays are therefore reaching the cancer? So would it not be wise to apply skin oil? Or, conversely, is this just an unquestioned urban myth? Even doctors fall prey to those. Ask me about stool softener and my 6 emergency room visits. I haven't seen a study on skin oils or stool softeners for that matter for people in our situation. Have you?]

If you decide to hold off on applying oils for now, but want an easily absorbed simple oil later or for some other use, do try jojoba. I get it at Trader Joe's. I am sure it can be found online and an organic source would be great. I have not studied its overall medical properties but my desert-dry 56-year-old California surfer BF swears by it for overall oldness.

Benadryl: Anti-itch, anti-inflammatory, and a sleeping pill in disguise. I for one drop off like a tired baby when I use this anti-histamine. I take it to fly, because I am a soil and sea person, not a stratosphere person, and sleep the whole way. It also prevents excess need-to-pee, which is convenient on flights. It's used in nursing homes to treat mild urinary incontinence by an unknown mechanism. Used in OTC sleep medicines as the active ingredient.


Posts: 30
Joined: Mar 2010


This is a lot of terrific information for everyone. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. My itching actually stopped once my pain got worse, so I traded one for the other. Now that I'm healing, the itching has returned a little. I figured out the Witch Hazel on my own. I'd avoid Tucks pads, because even though they are basically witch hazel, they also have alcohol and as we all know, anything with alcohol burns like hell. I was also taking Benedryl at night, which helped. I didn't have much luck with the topical lidocaine. I know it helps a lot of people, however, so it's worth trying.

I finished treatment yesterday and I can't wait to start feeling better. My vagina is dried up and my butt is sore and burned and full of hemmorhoids. I did get a 2 week break after the second chemo (Long story - 9 days in the hospital), so my burns healed up in there and made the end of the tx much easier.My biggest problem right now is the bowel movements. I hate the diarrhea, but anything more formed hurts like hell to pass. So, what to do, what to do? I'm going to try to stay on stool softeners every day like i did after my initial surgery to biopsy the tumor. I feel like I still have a long road ahead of me just dealing with the permanent changes. I'm going to go back to my ob/gyn and talk about some topical estrogen or something. Ugh. So much to think about.

But anyway, thanks for all the info.

winnipeg's picture
Posts: 24
Joined: Apr 2010

Good girl Susan! Yes, having anything pass through your anus after cancer and radiation is a bad sensation. I have to say, I do not miss, with my ostomy, looking down at the toilet to see what on earth came out this time. Or the burn of the diarrhea against the inflamed anus. I know some foods burn worse, so maybe the mildest diet with the least acids and chile would burn the least? For anyone with extreme or chronic issues, a temporary ostomy is possible.


My heart goes out to you. The pains of cancer and treatment just add up, don't they?

I left Xanax off the list by mistake. And Vicodin. These pills were invented for people like us. Don't let their abuse by the healthy deprive you of the benefits the scientists labored so hard to bring to those most afflicted, the cancer patients.


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