Chemotherapy targets fast-dividing cancer cells and other healthy cells in the body, such as those in your bone marrow, the lining of your gastrointestinal tract and your hair follicles. In addition to its effect on rapidly dividing cells, chemotherapy may damage many healthy tissues, including peripheral nerves, leading to peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy can be common in patients with cancer. Chemotherapy is a leading cause of peripheral neuropathy in people who have cancer. Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder that causes numbness and tingling or pain in your hands and feet or anywhere on your body.
The good news is that there are treatments for the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, which can often help improve the quality of life for those who suffer from this condition. In this article, we’ll look at the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients and how they can be managed.
What can be done to prevent peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients?
Many people do not realize that chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer kill healthy cells and malignant ones. Some of these drugs target rapidly dividing cells such as those found in blood and bone marrow, and some target cells only replicate themselves once every few years, such as heart muscle cells.
There’s no certain way of preventing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, but the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can be treated and managed.
What about cold therapy?
Cold therapy is also known as cryotherapy, cold hydrotherapy, icing, and cold water immersion. It is the act of exposing an injury site to extremely low temperatures for a short period of time to prevent or reduce:
- Tissue damage
Cold therapy can help with reducing inflammation, tissue repair (such as after surgery), and pain management, but what about cold therapy treatment for peripheral neuropathy?
According to a 2018 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, during chemotherapy, wearing frozen gloves and socks for 90 minutes a day appeared to help control neuropathy symptoms.
Cryosaunas or cryochambers conduct cryotherapy. Cryosaunas are devices that expose the body to extremely low temperatures (-200°F) for short periods of time. The idea is that it can cause white blood cells to go into hyperdrive, making them release cytokines, a chemical that stimulates tissue growth and healing.
What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
Neuropathy in cancer patients can occur as a side effect of certain chemotherapy agents used for breast cancer treatment that targets very rapidly growing cells.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are often gradual in onset, making it challenging to identify at first. They vary based on the cause, but they usually include:
- Muscle weakness
What can cancer patients do to ease the symptoms?
For cancer patients experiencing peripheral neuropathy symptoms, there are several things they can do to ease their symptoms.
Doing exercises that promote blood flow may help relieve the numbness and tingling. Doctors recommend low-impact aerobics, yoga, or Tai chi. These exercises encourage movement while improving circulation for patients who may be experiencing any pain or discomfort related to peripheral neuropathy.
Discuss any kind of treatment options or any changes you want to implement with your doctor. Still, if you’re experiencing pain due to neuropathy, your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter pain relievers or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
How long will the symptoms last?
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms are often short-term, but they can last for months or even years. Discuss any kind of treatment options with your doctor.
Following therapy, many types of pain and other symptoms in cancer patients generally improve or go away within 6-12 months.
How can peripheral neuropathy be managed?
Medications like pain relievers, anti-seizure medications, and other topical treatments can help cancer patients manage their peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Additionally, therapies like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and physical therapy may help improve symptoms.
With the right protocols and therapies, cancer patients can manage their peripheral neuropathy. Treatment plans are based on your specific type of neuropathy and other coexisting conditions. In addition, there are a variety of non-medications options that can be beneficial for some types of peripheral neuropathy.
WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions that are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our company, our drug and subscribe to our newsletter.
- “Peripheral Neuropathy“. Macmillan Cancer Support
- “Effects of Cryotherapy on Objective and Subjective Symptoms of Paclitaxel-Induced Neuropathy: Prospective Self-Controlled Trial“. Journal of the National Cancer Society
- “Managing Peripheral Neuropathy“. American Cancer Society
- “Peripheral Neuropathy“. Mayo Clinic
- “Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)“. OncoLink