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How Chemotherapy Can Affect Your Nerves

Cancer-fighting treatments are powerful and effective, as they target the harmful cells and destroy them before they destroy you. But when you take chemotherapy drugs, they can affect all the systems in your body, including your nervous system.

At Choice Cancer Care our team of cancer specialists administers chemotherapy with these side effects in mind, and we help you minimize and manage them as part of our comprehensive cancer treatment. One of the common effects is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy

Although chemotherapy remains one of the most effective treatments against many types of cancer, it may have a negative effect on your nerves, especially your peripheral nervous system.

The peripheral nervous system sends signals back and forth from your spinal cord and brain to and from the rest of your body. Any damage to those nerves results in pain and other symptoms. 

If your chemotherapy drugs damage any of your peripheral nerves, you may develop CIPN and feel symptoms like:

Not everyone who undergoes chemotherapy experiences CIPN, but about 30-40% of patients do, so it’s important to understand when and why it happens.

Why chemotherapy affects your nerves

The nerves in your peripheral nervous system are vulnerable to damage because they don’t have a strong protective barrier or an adequate lymph drainage system, so they’re prone to the effects of toxic chemicals. Specifically, chemotherapy causes inflammation and oxidative stress, which damages the neurons and nerve fibers.

For some patients, CIPN kicks in right away as soon as they begin chemotherapy, though for others, it may be delayed. If and when it occurs, it may be only a temporary condition that lasts a few days or weeks, or it can be a long-term problem that persists for years or even a lifetime.

Living with CIPN

Unfortunately, many cancer patients who suffer from CIPN abort their chemotherapy treatment to avoid the sensory disturbances. Here at Choice Cancer Care, we understand your discomfort and work with you to alleviate your symptoms so you can complete your chemotherapy as comfortably as possible.

If your symptoms are mild, there are few things you can do to make life with CIPN at little easier:

Because you may not be able to trust your nerves to alert you to extreme temperatures or minor injuries, it’s important to take precautions. 

Depending on the location and severity of your CIPN, you may find that massage therapy, breathing exercises, or biofeedback are helpful. 

In moderate-to-severe cases, we may suggest steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation. We may also recommend physical therapy, pain medications, topical anesthetics, or electrical nerve stimulation. We may even determine that it’s best to lower the dose of your chemotherapy or change to a different drug.

Our team works closely with you and monitors all your symptoms and your overall health to guide you through your chemotherapy experience safely and effectively. 

To learn more about chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, contact our friendly and knowledgeable team here at Choice Cancer Care. We have offices in Irving, Lewisville, Plano, Decatur, and Southlake, Texas, so call the one nearest you or request an appointment online.

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