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Peripheral Neuropathy: The Price You Pay for Cancer Treatment



Millions of individuals in the United States are affected by cancer each year, making it a serious health problem. The American Cancer Society predicts that this year there will be 1.9 million new instances of cancer identified in the country and more than 600 thousand cancer-related deaths. Breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer continue to be a few of the most prevalent cancers in the United States. Cancer still ranks as one of the top causes of death and a significant public health issue in the United States, despite recent declines in incidence and mortality rates. To improve outcomes for individuals afflicted by this deadly disease, funding for cancer research, prevention, and therapy must continue.


Treatments Cause More Problems


Chemotherapy remains a popular form of cancer treatment that uses strong medications to eradicate cancer cells. Because cancer cells multiply faster than healthy cells, most of these drugs work by targeting the cells of the body that repair the fastest. Sadly, these chemotherapy medications have the potential to harm good cells as well, including those in the nervous system, which can result in a disease known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.


The generic medical term used to describe injury to or illness of the nerves is peripheral neuropathy. Chemotherapy medications can irritate and harm the nerves that transmit messages from the brain to other regions of the body. This happens when the body is exposed to the chemicals. Numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the hands and feet, as well as weakness in the muscles and trouble with coordination, are just a few of the symptoms that can be caused by this injury.


There are several factors that can contribute to the development of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, including the type of chemotherapy drug used. How the medications are dosed as well as the frequency of treatment can also impact whether or not a cancer patient will develop neuropathy. Certain individual patient factors such as age and pre-existing conditions can play a role also. Unfortunately, there is no cure for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, but there are some treatments available that may help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for those that suffer from neuropathy symptoms.


Not All Hope Is Lost


A review published in Life in February of 2023 studied the effectiveness of exercise on patients undergoing chemotherapy. The researchers concluded that therapeutic exercise during chemotherapy resulted in a reduction in symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Patients also reported significantly less pain. The authors summarized the effects of exercise by stating "Therapeutic exercise generates a significant reduction in peripheral neuropathy symptoms in patients in short- and long-term follow-up with a moderate level of evidence quality."


Finally, chemotherapy can have undesirable side effects such peripheral neuropathy even if it can be an effective cancer treatment. It is critical that patients are informed about every possible danger related to chemotherapy. To create a treatment plan that is appropriate for them, patients and doctors must collaborate closely. Together, patients and doctors may be able to reduce the possibility of peripheral neuropathy and other adverse effects from chemotherapy while optimizing its advantages.


Sources


Dixit S, Tapia V, Sepúlveda C, Olate D, Berríos-Contreras L, Lorca LA, Alqahtani AS, Ribeiro IL. Effectiveness of a Therapeutic Exercise Program to Improve the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy during Chemotherapy: Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. Life (Basel). 2023 Jan 18;13(2):262. doi: 10.3390/life13020262. PMID: 36836620; PMCID: PMC9958632.

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