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How Many Breast Cancer Survivors Suffer Nerve Pain?

Two-fifths of breast cancer survivors in a recent study reported troubling nerve pain two years after treatment with chemotherapy.
How Many Breast Cancer Survivors Suffer Nerve Pain?
Breast cancer, dense breast, breast imaging, mammogram

Chemotherapy saves lives, but it can also result in long-lasting side effects. Until recently, oncologists did not know how often breast cancer survivors had to live with pain as a result of their treatment.

Breast Cancer Survivors and Neuropathy:

Two new studies show that women treated for early stage breast cancer may suffer from the numbness, tingling or pain of peripheral neuropathy in their feet for years afterwards. Relatively few studies of chemotherapy effectiveness actually follow up on such side effects, which can have a big impact on quality of life.

How Common Is Peripheral Neuropathy Among Breast Cancer Survivors?

To determine how common peripheral neuropathy might be, the investigators examined data from more than 1,500 breast cancer patients in the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project Protocol B-30. After two years of treatment, about 42 percent of the patients reported neuropathy, with 10 percent in severe pain.

Lower Dose Chemo Caused Less Nerve Pain:

The analysis showed that lower-dose docetaxel combinations to treat this cancer were less likely to trigger peripheral neuropathy. However, older or heavier breast cancer survivors appear to be more vulnerable.

Bandos et al, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Feb, 2018


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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