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Breast Cancer & Neuropathic Pain

Posted Dec 04 2009 12:00am
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition characterized by a tingling, burning, or weak feeling in your hands or feet that can result in pain when walking, loss of balance, falling, numbness, and trouble picking up objects.  Peripheral neuropathy is a known side effect of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. It has been suggested that peripheral neuropathy caused by chemotherapy might be associated with an increase in chronic neuropathic pain.

A new breast cancer study examined this potential relationship.  In this study, breast cancer researchers conducted a survey of breast cancer patients who had participated in clinical trials of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.  Of these patients, 240 responded to the survey, the results of which showed:
  • 64% of breast cancer patients using paclitaxel experienced chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.
  • 27% of those patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy went on to develop chronic neuropathic pain.
  • Researchers estimated that breast cancer patients that developed peripheral neuropathy after chemotherapy were about 3 times more likely to develop neuropathic pain.
  • Breast cancer patients that developed neuropathic pain took more medications and made double the visits to their heath care provider compared to patients that did not develop neuropathic pain.
In this era of personalized medicine, it is important for breast cancer patients to become aware of this type of information.  By understanding the type of side effects that can occur with chemotherapy, breast cancer patients can be better prepared to recognize them and better prepared to discuss them with their physician if they appear.  Additionally, with the variety of treatment options available it is important to discuss your options with your health care provider and include potential side effects and their additional impact on your health when making treatment decisions. 

In addition to becoming more aware of treatment options, it is also important to learn what you can do to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.  My book, Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer, is a great way to learn more about lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce breast cancer risk.  Please visit to find out more.
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