How to Cope with Neuropathy (Numbness and Unusual Sensations) During Cancer Treatment
November 15th, 2017
You’ve had fatigue, dehydration and now this – numbness and pain. It can be worrisome when you suddenly feel numb during a quiet walk, while you eat breakfast or even as you try to sleep.
In this article, we will share why numbness occurs and some ways to help you cope with it. Always remember, immediately notify your health care provider when you start experiencing any side effects. Doing so gives your doctor the time and cue to address your symptoms and to manage it accordingly .
What is it and why is it Happening?
The numbness, tingling or pain you feel on your hands and feet is what doctors would call Peripheral Neuropathy. You would probably hear this referred to asCIPN or RIPN (Chemotherapy-Induced or Radiotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy) by your doctor (and in some articles).
Some of the chemotherapy drugs and radiation levels can cause nerve damage. The level of impact for each varies depending on dosage, type and length of treatment.
As for how long you’ll need to cope with it,that depends on other factors too, including:
- Having diabetes, HIV or other medical conditions
- Family history
Meanwhile, the exact mechanisms involved in how it actually happens in your body, is a different story for each drug and protocol. Studies are still ongoing to identify them specifically so it can be controlled and prevented more effectively.
How does it Manifest?
You’ll notice how symptoms can get worse either immediately after treatment or 3 months and over from your last dose. It doesn’t always occur severely or suddenly. The feeling usually starts in your toes and creeps up slowly. This is why even when the symptoms are mild, it’s best to take notice and let your doctor know about it.
Your healthcare team can possibly make adjusts to help manage or prevent neuropathy. This may include supplements or medication in your protocol if they are using chemo drugs known to cause CIPN.
Managing and Preventing the Symptoms
Is it permanent? That would depend on the type of treatment you are receiving. There are promising cures and supplements that can prevent or reverse it. You can discuss these options with your doctor and ask about clinical trials that may be able to help.
Meanwhile, based on research, some supplements have been shown to effectively treat CIPN or RIPN. However, note that these are based on clinical trials. Results may vary depending on your treatment plan and overall condition.
If Oxaliplatin is part of your protocol, this is something that has helped some patients according to research.
A study by the Division of Oncology & Hematology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital showed how oral Glutathione supplements diminished CIPN and reduced occurrence of it in other patients.
A study by a team of doctors in from Ospedali Riuniti di Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy also found the same results.
Kampo Formula or Goshajinkigan (GJG or TJ-107)
Studies have shown how this Japanese Herb have successfully reduced incidents in CIPN for patients taking chemotherapy drugs Oxaliplatin and FOLFOX even at higher doses.
Jianwei Hiangqi Guizhi Wuwu Decoction (JHGWD) and Guilongtongluofang
These two Chinese Medicines made from herbs have both shown significant positive results in reducing the severity of CIPN and preventing it as well.
You may have encountered Vitamin E, Vitamin B6 supplements and Fucoidan as possible treatment options but recent studies have shown that they haven’t been successful in treating CIPN. Moreover, Vitamin E and Vitamin B6 supplements also tend to reduce the effectiveness of some chemo drugs in treating cancer.
As you experience this challenge in your treatment, it is important to be cautious about managing your energy and keeping safe. Here are some reminders for safety:
- Whenever fatigue or pain keeps you from completing errands and chores get some friends and family to help you.
- It can be a pain, but it’s also a good excuse to pamper your feet a little extra:
- Give it more breaks. Sit down when you’re brushing your teeth, chopping up the next meal or ironing clothes.
- Get extra comfy shoes and keep them covered in socks
- Have a regular foot massage
- Keep away from triggers. Whether it’s a cold or hot environment, clothing and materials, or energy-demanding activities, it’ll be good to keep avoiding them until you recover.
- Keep Safe:
- When it comes to handling sharp or hot objects make sure you protect your hands with gloves
- Know your balance and use rails or get support for walking if you need it
I hope that you’ve found the information you need here to cope with or prevent the numbness, tingling or pain from neuropathy.
Disclosure: These are recommendations only. If your side effects are affecting you, it is important to talk with members of your healthcare team.