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Managing Neuropathy in Cancer Patients

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Understanding Cancer Treatment:

Cancer treatments are designed to kill the cancer cells that are rapidly reproducing in the body. This can be done through chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, stem cell transplants, and many more. They are important and necessary, in most patients, for survival. With it comes a large physical “cost” that needs to be properly addressed: neuropathy.

Cancer and Neuropathy:

Neuropathy is often characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and feet. However, it can present in other symptoms as well like cramping, dry skin, lack of balance, and cold extremities, eventually resulting in needing walkers and wheelchairs. Why does this happen? Well, the treatments are trying to kill off the cancer cells, which in turn damages the nerve by stripping the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is the protective covering around the nerves. If the myelin sheath is damaged, the nerve is exposed, and has a significantly higher risk of dying. A dying nerve results in the symptoms listed above, also known as neuropathy. There are a couple common ways neuropathy is addressed to increase over-all wellbeing. I start with patient education. 

I encourage neuropathy patients to educate themselves as much as they can. Empowering yourself with knowledge increases the ability for self-care strategies and enables them to take an active role in managing their symptoms. It would also be encouraged to make lifestyle modifications like proper foot care, balance exercises to reduce fall risks, eating anti-inflammatory foods, and regular doctor check-ups. 

One of the most important actions to take for neuropathy is early detection. Close monitoring of neuropathy symptoms allows for early detection and prompt intervention. If the nerve damage is less than 20%, the nerves have the potential to heal on their own, without medical assistance. Once the sensory loss is measured to over 20%, medical involvement is important as the disease is exponentially progressive and can no longer reverse on their own. The greater the loss, the more difficult it is to recover. 

Different doctors have different strategies on helping neuropathy, depending on their background and education. Some doctors specialize in pain management and may prescribe medications to alleviate the symptoms. Other doctors may focus on the reversal of the disease and recommend various therapies to heal the nerve. What treatment and which doctor’s recommendations you choose to follow is an individual decision to be discussed during the consultation, but knowing your options is encouraged. 

It is important to listen to your oncologist and follow their recommendations. I would not advise someone to stop cancer treatments to avoid neuropathy. However, I would advise them against ignoring neuropathy and allowing it to worsen. I recommend seeking a doctor you trust who specializes in neuropathy reversal so that your quality of life is affected as minimally as possible.  You deserve the best quality of life you can have. 

It is important to listen to your oncologist and follow their recommendations. I would not advise someone to stop cancer treatments to avoid neuropathy. However, I would advise them against ignoring neuropathy and allowing it to worsen. I recommend seeking a doctor you trust who specializes in neuropathy reversal so that your quality of life is affected as minimally as possible.  You deserve the best quality of life you can have. 

– Dr. Ken Horup DC, Neuropathy Specialist located in Hilton Head Island, SC 

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Neuropathy, Chiropractic, News,

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