Chemotherapy is used to treat many types of cancers and its side effects vary depending on the type of chemotherapy received. Some cancers and some chemotherapy agents may cause nerve changes, which can increase with the more chemotherapy a patient receives.
Nerve changes can lead to pain or problems with movement called peripheral neuropathy.
Examples of drugs that may cause nerve changes:
- Cytarabine (high doses)
These drugs may cause numbness, tingling or pain in the hands or feet, difficulty using your fingers (holding or picking things up), constipation or hard stools, losing your balance or feeling weak. Because nerve changes can increase over time, it is important to let your oncologist know what symptoms you are experiencing. In some cases, symptoms may improve when chemotherapy is complete and in some cases, medicine may be given to help the symptoms.
In addition to taking extra caution to prevent falls and make sure you are protecting your hands and feet, certain medications may also help to decrease the symptoms of nerve damage. Medicines traditionally used to treat depression and seizure disorders can be helpful in treating nerve pain. Talk to your oncologist if you are experiencing these symptoms.
The Cancer Center Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic works with patients, their oncologists and other pain specialists to develop effective pain treatment plans.
Take the next step:
- Get information on how physical therapy can help with pain by reading: Getting Back to Your Life as Usual
- Read about pain research: Cancer Center research on treating neuropathy
- Check out Pain Services at the U-M Cancer Center
- Download and print Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects: Pain from the National Cancer Institute
The Cancer Center’s Symptom Management and Supportive Care Program helps patients maintain independence and increase comfort by managing the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of its treatment. The program is designed to assist patients at any stage in their cancer treatment. To make an appointment, call 877-907-0859.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.