Nail Damage during Treatment for Breast Cancer

Some of the drugs used to treat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and womb cancer cause damage to the nails as a side-effect of the cancer treatment.

Different chemotherapy drugs have different side-effects. Here you will find a list of the drugs commonly used for the treatment of breast cancer and  those that are associated with nail damage.

  • Some chemo drugs can cause damage to finger nails and toenails
  • Nails can become ridged, split or separate from the nail bed
  • This page gives information on chemo nail loss, chemo and nail damage, lost nails through chemotherapy, nail loss after chemo, losing nails after chemo, losing fingernails after chemo

Breast Cancer

 Chemotherapy Drug1  Nail Related Side-effect2
 FEC – 5FU, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide Onycholysis
 AC – doxorubicin (Adriamycin®) and cyclophosphamide Onycholysis
 CMF – cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5FU Onycholysis
 E-CMF – epirubicin and CMF None reported
FEC-T – FEC followed by docetaxel (Taxotere®).2 Onycholysis


Onycholysis is the a loosening of the nail from the nail bed beginning at the top of the nail and proceeding to the root3

We recommend using a natural oil to moisturise the nail beds. The references to support this advice can be found on our Skin Care Advice page.

Nail damage caused by chemotherapy for ovarian cancercervical cancerwomb cancer and the most common male cancers, lung cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer can be found on our specialist page.


  1. < 2013 Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer (online) Available at <> accessed 12 June 2013
  2. Vereecken, P, Awada, A. 2012 Handbook of Skin Care in Cancer Patients Cancer Etiology, Diagnosis and Treatments. Nova Science Publishers Inc  New York
  3. <>available online accessed 4 July 2013






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