Skin markings in external radiotherapy by temporary tattooing with henna: Improvement of accuracy and increased patient comfort

Richard W. Tsang, Mary K. Gospodarowicz, Melania Pintilie, Andrea Bezjak, Woodrow Wells, David C. Hodgson, A. Keith Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Purpose: To guarantee invariable skin markings in patients undergoing a course of external radiotherapy, especially using conformal techniques. Cutaneous markings with henna also increase patient comfort, because washing and showering are allowed. Methods and Materials: Henna, a completely natural product, is a skin colorant with a history of 5,000 years. It is applied to the skin in the form of a paste. While drying, henna stains the superficial skin layers for several weeks, and the marked area can be exposed to water arbitrarily. In case of fading of the stain before the end of radiotherapy, the marking procedure can be repeated. From November 1998 until March 2000, we performed skin markings with henna in 158 patients with different tumor sites. The majority of patients received conformal radiotherapy techniques. All patients have been evaluated concerning durability of the markings, the required number of marking procedures per treatment course, and possible related side effects. Results: The median durability of henna staining is 23 days (range 12-48 days). On average, two marking procedures (range 1-4) are necessary for a patient treated with curative intent. Although washing and showering are freely permitted, no adverse cutaneous side effects (e.g., erythema, allergic reactions) have been observed. Conclusions: Skin marking by temporary tattooing with henna increases the accuracy of external radiotherapy. It yields stable and invariable markings for the entire course of radiotherapy and also increases the comfort of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-181
Number of pages3
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2001


  • Conformal radiotherapy
  • External radiotherapy
  • Henna
  • Quality assurance
  • Skin markings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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