Chemotherapy Neuropathy is One of the Least Well-Known Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, But You Can Take Action to Minimize Its Effects.
We’ve all heard about the classic side effects of chemotherapy for cancer treatment: hair loss, nausea, disrupted digestion. But did you know that a common side effect, which is rarely discussed, is tingling or numbness in the extremities?
This condition, known as peripheral neuropathy or Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN), can be unpredictable, and it can severely impact your quality of life. What’s more, sometimes chemotherapy neuropathy will subside and eventually disappear months or years after your treatment is over, but sometimes the nerve damage lingers well after you are believed to be cancer free.
Some of the typical symptoms of chemotherapy neuropathy in the hands or feet include:
- Burning sensation
- Shooting or “electric” pains
For many patients, chemotherapy neuropathy is so bad that it keeps them from functioning normally during the day or even sleeping at night.
So, what can you do to combat chemotherapy neuropathy?
Your oncologist or other physician may have prescribed medications to help manage the symptoms of your CIPN. But there’s so much more that you can do beyond simply taking drugs and hoping for the best.
Complementary and integrative therapies have been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating chemotherapy neuropathy for many people. You might have heard of these as a broad category called CAM, for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
If chemotherapy neuropathy is an issue for you, some of the complementary therapies you might consider are:
- Supplements like alpha lipoic acid (B12) that can ease symptoms
- Acupuncture and Chinese medicine
- Specific herbal supplements to strengthen nerve health
- Massage therapy aimed at cancer patients
- Gentle exercise, as recommended by your physician
Be sure that you talk with your oncologist before beginning to use any kind of supplement or alternative treatment, to make sure that it will not interfere with your primary cancer treatment.
For more information about nerve health and chemotherapy neuropathy, we recommend the “neuropathy owners manual,” I Beat Neuropathy!
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