PolyMem® - guidelines on how to use

PolyMem® is a soft dressing that soaks up liquid easily. This type of dressing moisturises and cleans wounds.

We may give you a PolyMem dressing because you have a slightly wet (moist) area on your skin, due to your radiotherapy treatment. This is a common skin reaction and the PolyMem dressing helps the area to heal.

The PolyMem dressing:

  • protects the delicate skin
  • absorbs (takes in) any leaking fluid (discharge)
  • gives you comfort
  • helps with pain
  • reduces the risk of infection

Instructions for use

  • Cleanse the area where you had radiotherapy with slightly warm water and pat it dry with a clean towel.
  • If necessary, cut the dressing into the required size and shape.
  • Sprinkle the plain side of the dressing with sterile water or saline (a mixture of salt and pure water). You can use boiled water that has cooled. Your nurse or therapeutic radiographer (the health professional who plans and gives you radiotherapy treatment) shows you how to do this.
  • Put the plain side of the dressing onto your skin. The printed side of the dressing should be on the outside.
  • Secure the dressing in the way that your nurse or therapeutic radiographer has shown you.
  • Do not use tape directly on your skin. You can use tape on the dressing, as your nurse or therapeutic radiographer has shown you.
  • There is no need to moisturise your skin under the dressing. PolyMem dressings contain substances that help to moisturise the skin.
  • You can leave the PolyMem dressing in place for several days, depending on the amount of fluid oozing from the skin. Change the dressing when you can see the fluid through the upper side of the dressing.
  • While you wear the PolyMem dressing, you do not need to clean the area of skin underneath. This is because the dressing already has substances that cleanse the wound.
  • You can leave the PolyMem dressing in place when bathing, but need to keep it dry. Change the dressing if it gets wet.
  • When your skin is no longer moist and the broken areas have healed, you can stop using the PolyMem dressing. You can then return to using moisturising cream.

Signs of infection

During your radiotherapy treatment, it is important to tell your radiotherapy nurse practitioner or therapeutic radiographer if you think you skin is becoming infected. After finishing your treatment, you can tell a GP or district nurse if you have any signs of infection.

Signs of infection are:


  • a high temperature (fever) and flu-like symptoms
  • a red, hot and swollen area (the redness may be harder to notice on brown and black skin)
  • a smelly and unusual discharge (leaking fluid)

However, the area quite often leaks a slightly green and thick liquid on the dressing. You can contact us for advice if you are worried. 



  • tell your radiotherapy nurse or therapeutic radiographer if the PolyMem dressing irritates your skin
  • store PolyMem dressings in dry conditions and away from direct sunlight

Do not

  • use a PolyMem dressing if the inner package is damaged
  • use a PolyMem dressing if the expiry date printed on the outer package has passed

Resource number 4730/VER2
Published date September 2023
Review date September 2026

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns during your radiotherapy treatment, please speak to the therapeutic radiographer treating you or the radiotherapy nurse practitioners.

Phone: 020 7188 4220, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Outside of these hours, contact the acute oncology service.

Phone: 020 7188 3754 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Information adapted from the Oxford Cancer and Haematology Centre with kind permission.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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