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- Nerve and muscle effects
Nerve and muscle effects
Some chemotherapy drugs can damage the nerves that send signals between the central nervous system and the arms and legs. This is called peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms include tingling (“pins and needles”), numbness or pain in your hands and feet, and muscle weakness in your legs.
For many people, peripheral neuropathy is a short-term issue, but for others, it can last a long time or even be permanent. If you experience numbness and tingling, tell your doctor or nurse before your next treatment. Your treatment may need to be changed or the problem carefully monitored.
Ways to manage numb hands or feet
- Take care when moving around; you may be more likely to trip if your feet are numb or your legs are weak.
- Ask your treatment team about exercising. Moderate exercise has been shown to reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
- Wear gloves and socks to keep hands and feet warm, or soak your hands and feet in warm water to relieve symptoms.
- Use your elbow to check the water temperature so you don’t burn yourself.
- Talk to an occupational therapist about aids that may help (e.g. posts to raise the sheets off your feet if they’re irritated by the weight of the sheets).
- Wear well-fitting shoes with non-slippery soles.
- Clear walkways of hazards and remove loose rugs.
- If your symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor about medicines that may offer relief.
For more on this, see Peripheral neuropathy.
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Prof Timothy Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Graham Borgas, Consumer: Dr Joanna Dewar, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Professor, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Angela Kritikos, Senior Oncology Dietitian, Dietetic Department, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Kate Mahon, Director of Medical Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Marissa Ryan, Acting Consultant Pharmacist (Cancer Services), Pharmacy Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
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