Doctors and researchers are continually working to develop new ways to remedy and cope with cancer and the potential side-effects of cancer treatments – a mission that hits close to home for us at CamWell as we continue to research new ways to aid patients undergoing treatment for cancer.
Chemotherapy is one of the most widely adopted and accepted cancer treatments worldwide. While chemotherapy is effective, it is also accompanied by some potentially challenging and painful side-effects – the most prevalent of which is chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy.
There are many different variations of care when it comes to how to treat chemo induced neuropathy – some of which are validated by science, and others that can be debunked as nothing more than hearsay. This article is designed to assist those seeking to learn more about hand and foot care during Chemo.
What is Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy?
Chemo induced peripheral neuropathy is a debilitating condition felt by many undergoing treatment for cancer – in fact, over 60% of patients report to suffer from at least one of the many CIPN symptoms. Unfortunately in some cases, symptoms don’t subside at the conclusion of treatment, as 20-30% of surviving patients continue to feel the effects long after completion.
Neuropathy from chemo can have an extremely adverse impact on the quality of life of patients – it’s also one of the most difficult side-effects of chemotherapy to counteract as there is no one universally accepted or proven cure.
In a basic sense, peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves of patients undergoing chemotherapy. Distant nerves throughout the body are called “peripheral nerves” – these nerves carry sensations to different parts of the body including the brain, as well as control the arms and legs.
The symptoms experienced with neuropathy from chemo are caused by damage to these distant nerves – resulting in a multitude of unpleasant symptoms for the patient (more on that later). The condition itself presents a challenge to doctors, as it’s impossible to determine when symptoms will begin and for how long they’ll last for.
How to Cope With Chemo Induced Neuropathy
Before delving into coping options, it’s important to note that there is no scientifically accepted cure for neuropathy after chemo. Early studies that have been completed require further research to substantiate any of their claims.
As of now, researchers are unsure as to how to reverse neuropathy from chemo – and the standard option of choice is to simply reduce the amount of chemotherapy a patient receives.
Of course, this results in patients fearing their treatment will be drastically impacted – and many simply never report their CIPN symptoms to their doctor or have their symptoms glossed over. In fact, a 2014 study involving patients receiving chemotherapy found that 6.7% of patients feel their CIPN symptoms are overlooked.
Despite this, there are a multitude of options to educate yourself on when it comes to how to treat chemo induced neuropathy – as well as a range of different potential strategies that may help ease chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Neuropathy From Chemo
Many patients are averse to treating their condition with multiple medications as they fear complicating their recovery, or simply do not want to introduce different elements into their systems during cancer treatment.
In this case, these patients may instead opt for natural remedies for neuropathy from chemo. There are a good amount of holistic options when it comes to treating your CIPN symptoms. Of course, it’s important to confer with your doctor before trying any of the following treatments.
Lotions/Creams – Patients have had some success in easing their peripheral neuropathy symptoms with botanical creams and lotions. As with any option, it’s important to verify that product claims are validated by prior usage and patient testimonials.
CamWell’s Hand to Heal cream is specifically formulated to be the best lotion for chemotherapy patients. The Hand to Heal herbal formula has been used for over 20 years and is based on the herb compatibility theory of natural medicine. Perhaps most importantly, the effectiveness of Hand to Heal has been proven through randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.
Hand to Heal was primarily designed for and is effective in healing symptoms of people diagnosed with hand foot syndrome as a result of chemotherapy. Hand foot syndrome is a side-effect of certain chemotherapy drugs that results in redness, tenderness, and peeling of the palms and soles. Much like peripheral neuropathy, hand foot syndrome can interfere with a patient’s ability to lead a comfortable every day life.
Patients using CamWell’s Hand to Heal cream for hand foot syndrome have reported the product helping ease their peripheral neuropathy symptoms as well.
Exercise – Exercise has proven to be a valuable ally in the fight against cancer, as well as a key component of successful cancer treatments. As it relates to how to treat chemo induced neuropathy, studies have thus far been limited – however, those that have been completed have produced encouraging results.
One recent study enrolled 355 patients – these patients were randomly assigned to receive either solely chemotherapy, or chemotherapy plus the Exercise Center for Cancer Patients program. The program consists of moderate-intensity walking and resistance exercises developed by specialists for a total of six weeks.
Upon completion of the study, researchers concluded that exercise appeared to reduce the severity of chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and hot/cold feelings in the hands and feet.
Many patients find that walking for exercise is a convenient, easy activity that keeps them active and is quite enjoyable.
Dietary Changes – We truly believe food is the best medicine. Perhaps just as important as exercise, a balanced diet provides an untold amount of support for those undergoing treatment for cancer. A healthy diet aids the body in fighting cancer and can ease some side-effects of treatment.
Little is known about the specific effects of certain types of food on peripheral neuropathy, however an initial study has shown some relationship between whole grain foods and the potential of worse neuropathy developing. In fact, the odds of worse neuropathy symptoms decreased by 21% for each increase in tertile of grain consumption for this particular study.
Additionally, eating foods that are higher in fiber such as fruits and vegetables may help patients relieve constipation that occurs as a result of neuropathy.
There’s also some evidence that a well-balanced diet can help prevent or reduce symptoms of neuropathy. It’s important to confer with your doctor before instituting any dietary changes, as they may have an adverse effect on your overall treatment.
Massage Therapy – Massage therapy has also been shown to play a positive role in easing some CIPN symptoms. Generally speaking, massage therapy improves blood flow throughout the body. When dealing with chemo induced peripheral neuropathy, patients will tense their muscles as a result of neuropathic pain – massage therapy can help ease this tension.
As is the case with many existing treatments for CIPN, there is limited scientific evidence to support massage therapy as an accepted cure for neuropathy after chemo. However, the effectiveness of massage therapy as a treatment for CIPN symptoms has been validated in individual studies.
A 2016 study treated patients suffering with CIPN symptoms with massage therapy – after just one session, 50% of patients observed reported improvement in all of their CIPN related symptoms.
Acupuncture and Reflexology – Although limited research has been performed, there is reason to believe acupuncture and reflexology may help ease CIPN symptoms. A recent study evaluated 30 patients diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of a year. Patients received treatment according to the Acupuncture and Reflexology Treatment for Neuropathy Protocol.
Upon completion of the study, 93% of the patients had complete resolution of their CIPN symptoms.
Techniques to Help Cope With the Effects of Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy
While there is no cure for peripheral neuropathy, there are many precautions those affected can take to help ease their symptoms and aid in improving their overall quality of life – most of which are fairly easy.
It’s important to note that there is not any one specific technique or regimen that will work for everyone – each situation is individual to the patient in question, and any questions should be referred to their doctor or healthcare team.
- Neuropathy has a tendency to reduce sensation, particularly in the feet and hands. Take special care to protect those areas where numbness or weakness occurs, such as wearing thick socks or soft-soled shoes
- As peripheral neuropathy can cause patients to have a lessened ability to feel hot and cold sensations, it’s important to protect feet and hands at all times from extreme weather conditions
- Daily inspection and early detection of symptoms will help in caring for them. Look at your skin routinely and inspect it for the presence of cuts, abrasions and burns. Notify your doctor or healthcare team as it relates to these findings.
Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
It’s important for patients to pay close attention to their bodies while undergoing treatment. One of the best defenses against CIPN is early detection and communication. At the first sign of any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or healthcare team – they will be able to tailor a specific plan of action as it relates to attempting to reverse neuropathy from chemo:
- Tingling (pins and needles feeling)
- Burning or warm feeling
- Discomfort or pain
- Lessened ability to feel hot and cold sensations
- Cramps in your feet
- Ringing in your ears
- Difficulty picking up objects
Each and every patient is capable of coping and caring for their CIPN symptoms, whether it’s on their own or with the help of their doctor and healthcare team. Each individual patient will have a different situation than the last, so care options should be specific to the particular circumstances. While there is no specific cure, there are plenty of options to help maintain a better quality of life for those suffering with CIPN.
In addition to the natural remedies mentioned above, CamWell also offers as comfort gifts for Chemo patients an excellent form of nurturing support for those undergoing treatment and suffering from CIPN. Each Chemo Care Package includes healing supplies to help sustain patients while they’re undergoing chemotherapy and helps nurture a sense of refuge and peace.
Patients living with CIPN can still maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle while undergoing cancer treatment.