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Coralville salon and spa tailors to cancer patients with oncology esthetics

IOWA CITY (AP) — The treatment Nicole Louvar began receiving in 2010 for fallopian tube cancer healed her body, but the Iowa City resident also wanted to heal her mind.

Her aunt recommended Skin Deep Salon and Spa, a Coralville spa tailored toward cancer patients — and Louvar finally found that long-sought relief.

“It helped considerably with everything I was going through, just focusing on my body and myself,” she told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “Particularly when you’re going through being poked, prodded, scanned and all that junk (during chemotherapy), what could be an entirely negative experience with your body led to something with a positive effect as well.”

Skin Deep owner Tracy Lacina said cancer patients often have physical necessities that require more personalized accommodations during salon visits.

“If a woman comes in after a mastectomy and has their lymph nodes removed, we don’t want to massage that arm and stimulate fluids into an axillary that has no place for it to go. Same thing if they have a port put down their chest or a pick line going down their arm,” she said. “We also have to be aware of how we treat them relative to medicines they may be on.”

Treating the physical side effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, she added, is critical to a patient’s mental health.

“Some chemotherapy drugs cause very severe acne, rashes or hair loss,” the 48-year-old said, “and these are very devastating physical conditions that do affect people mentally. Believe me, if you don’t look good, you don’t feel good, and that’s especially true with women.”

Lacina, a 26-year survivor of uterine cancer, is a licensed oncology esthetician — esthetics referring to the practice of beautifying the skin. She received her esthetics license in Iowa City in 2009, then received her oncology esthetics licensing in 2010 following a series of classes across the country with oncology esthetics expert Morag Currin.

She opened Skin Deep in 2010, a time she notes as the beginning of widespread oncology esthetics awareness in the country. Part of the reason for the practice’s delayed incorporation in America, she said, comes from a reluctance for trade schools to work with patients undergoing medical treatment.

“Many trade schools can’t afford the insurance required to put health-challenged people into hands of students,” she said. “When you graduate from a traditional esthetics course, you’re working with healthy patients — not diabetics, third-trimester pregnancies, and so on — those patients are off-limits. To me, that felt like we weren’t doing a service for them; we needed to reach out to those with health challenges and offer the same services.”

Cancer patients at Skin Deep receive a 60 percent discount on spa services, largely to offset oncology esthetics services that fall outside most insurance coverage.

Iowa City Mercy Hospital Dr. Darwin Petersen, DO, FACS, said services like Lacina’s compliment the medical treatment cancer patients receive.

“These kind of places are very skilled at helping women recapture that lost feeling of physical confidence,” he said, “And it’s very important because there’s more to treating cancer that than just disease — there’s a patient attached to it. It’s critically important for their personal well-being and self-esteem.”

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