Cancer is one of the most persistent scourges of modern medicine. Not only are the various types of cancer extremely dangerous, but the methods to combat them, including chemotherapy, can be aggressive to the point of heavily impacting a person’s health and quality of life. Hundreds of thousands of cancer patients in North America alone receive chemotherapy every year, and many of them experience damage to the peripheral nervous system—chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, or CIPN.
Like most neuropathy, chemotherapy-caused neuropathy shows up in the form of pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of temperature sensation, most commonly in the extremities. Other symptoms, while less ubiquitous, are still common: loss of bladder control, constipation, loss of body awareness, and difficulty walking or standing. Sometimes the condition is chronic, and will be a factor in the rest of a sufferer’s life. In many cases, however, the pain and discomfort from chemotherapy-caused neuropathy can be effectively managed, allowing a cancer survivor to lead a normal, active life.
So what can you do to help protect yourself from chemotherapy-caused neuropathy? First, report any unusual sensations, pain, or numbness to your doctor or a qualified NeuropathyDR® clinician. Like any neuropathy, the sooner we identify a problem, the better we will be able to control your symptoms. Let your chemotherapy provider know you might be experiencing a complication; in some cases, they may decide to postpone treatments to help your nerves recover.
Second, take steps to protect your peripheral nervous system, which is already under strain from the chemotherapy. Wear gloves when performing manual labor. Make sure your clothing and shoes do not rub against your skin and cause abrasions (loose clothing can aggravate neuropathy symptoms). Work with a NeuropathyDR® clinician to develop a diet and exercise regimen that will contribute to overall nerve stimulation and health. Perhaps most importantly, make sure to abide by your cancer doctor’s orders—managing the underlying condition is the most important factor in treating any kind of neuropathy.
Our patient, Joanne, knows firsthand how hard chemotherapy can be on the nervous system. Joanne is a cancer survivor who, when she came to us, had been recovering from the effects of her chemotherapy for five years. Along with most of the common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, Joanne complained of severe pain in her lumbar back, extreme stiffness in her neck and shoulders, and weakness in her legs. Joanne’s pain, especially in her feet, was intense to the point of affecting her daily lifestyle. She was taking medication for pain, but the medicine was marginally effective at best.
Our treatment plan for Joanne involved a combination of manual therapies to her spine, as well as 2 forms of electro-stimulation to her feet and hands. We treated Joanne three times a week for five weeks; in only four weeks, Joanne was commenting that her symptoms had subsided dramatically. Immediately following each treatment, Joanne noticed a reduction in her pain level. The pain and numbness in her feet subsided a whopping 65-70%!
In a thank-you note Joanne wrote us a long time after the completion of the clinic portion of her NeuropathyDR® treatment plan, Joanne told us she had been able to stop taking her pain medications and was feeling fine, almost entirely pain-free. Her strength had begun to return, and her mobility improved as well.
Joanne is a success story we are proud to have to our credit. To be entirely honest, not many patients show the level of improvement we saw in Joanne in such a short time. Even so, it goes to show that not only is there hope for cancer survivors who live with neuropathy pain, but in some cases the recovery can be swift and dramatic. Everyone who experiences neuropathy can learn to manage their symptoms, and our treatment methods are highly effective. If you suffer from CIPN or any other kind of neuropathy, contact us! NeuropathyDR® can answer your questions and put you in touch with a specially-trained clinician who can help you get back to living at your best!