The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.

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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I am in constant pain from the Brest amputation and the removal of lymphnods the burning, stinging and numbness makes me not want to go living. The Drs look at me as tho I’m lieing or drug seeking. I am willing to go to any length to prove this is true not only for me but many other women. If I’d known this is the end result of breast cancer treatment I’d never taken it. If there are any clinical trials please let me know. I will not follow this path of pain much longer it must come to end soon.

I am a Licensed Acupuncturist in California. For the past ten years I have run a weekly acupuncture clinic at our local hospital’s cancer center. Many of our patients have CIPN, or chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. As the article mentioned, this is a big problem from chemotherapy, for many cancers in addition to breast cancer.

I cannot give exact numbers or percentages, but many of our patients have had a lessening of their CIPN from acupuncture. It takes time and persistence however. Often people don’t notice any change until 8-10 treatments. But some, if they continue, will get greater relief over time. I don’t know of drugs that consistently help, so the acupuncture is certainly worth a try if available.

I have suffered with neuropathy for many years. Now I am very disabled with balance and walking is out of the question. No help from the Big Pharmacy or medical community. Neurontin and Lyrica will make you a Zombie, no life left. Do not take them if you can tolerate your condition. My thought right now is maybe if enough cancer survivors can let this side effect be known LOUDY, WE ALL MIGHT GET SOME HELP from somewhere. Please, please help us with this dibilitating disease.

I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in November 2016. Since then I have had chemo, bilateral mastectomy, and radiation therapy. I suffer from constant pain in my feet to the point of me wrapping my feet in bandages because I’m a nurse, and it requires a lot of walking around.

Seeing that Cipro a poisonous antibiotic as well as chemotherapy drugs cause peripheral myopathy this has to be a no brainer.

I just completed Chemo and radiation for Breast cancer. I have neuropathy in my left leg and so far nothing is helping it much. I’m about to increase dosage of Gabapentin but not sure what the side effects are that might occur. I tried Lyrica for a short time and had little to no relief with it. I did not like what I heard about the side effects of Lyrica so went back to Gabapentin which my insurance covers and it brings minimum relief. The oncologist said it may heal itself; I have my fingers crossed.

Did you try Lyrica? It can be a great drug for some, but nothing is risk free. Also, you can buy a clay/gel heating pack at he drug store that you put in the microwave. There’s a size to fit your foot and it really helps with the deep pain. Good while watching television. Chemo is a double-edged sword, isn’t it?

I am one of those who have peripheral neuropathy after chemo.

19 years ago I was treated for an aggressive breast cancer which had spread to lymph nodes. I agreed to an experimental high dose chemo regimen. I now tease with my doctors that I’m alive to complain about the side effects.

As strange as it may sound, no one had much experience in dealing with the side effects. Sometimes I felt a bit crazy because I had all these issues, and there was little advice or treatment available.

I have significant neuropathy in my legs. A helpful neurologist diagnosed a 50 % loss of sensation up to mid-calf and wrist. The main effect, other than discomfort, was significant loss of balance due to loss of proprioception. T

he good news is that I found significant help with balance from exercises. I think that people with more recent treatment may find that there is more knowledge in the medical community about side effects, and they won’t feel as alone as I did in figuring this out.

I enjoy the Peoples Pharmacy so much with all the helpful hints of natural medication.
Many thanks

I had chemo in 2013 then a double mastectomy in May 2014 and developed peripheral neuropathy, hands and feet. My doctor told me it may or may not go away. It has not. First tried Gabapentin and it did not work. Second Venlafaxine , same results. However, coming off the Venlafaxine after three tries was horrible. Having someone massage your hands and feet help but only temporary. Walking is difficult but thankful I can walk. The pain is constant . This is my new normal.

Joyce, after becoming very depressed with neuropathy and not being able to walk, I tried acupuncture. Glad to say say after about 2 months I am walking without any help. I still have tingling in finger tips and toes but we’re going to work on that next. I’m 80 and refused to give up my independence. Acupuncture is being recognized now in the cancer field. Good luck to you. Ms

If original Listerine works for shingles pain, perhaps it would
work also for your nerve pain. Worth a try.

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