Chemotherapy & Your Feet
Summary of Chapter 31
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.– Abraham Lincoln
Chemotherapy & Your Feet
I’ll never forget when Maddy came to my office. This 50-year-old mother of two grown daughters had just finished weeks of chemotherapy for breast cancer. She walked with an unstable gait and once we sat down to talk she explained the reason for her visit: severe pain and numbness in her feet. It was so excruciating that it kept Maddy awake at night. Many people don’t link these issues to chemotherapy because it’s not always something their doctors mention. After all, oncologists are busy battling a patient’s cancer and hoping it hasn’t spread to her bones that the feet may not be at the top of their agenda. But this side effect of chemotherapy has a huge impact on the quality of a cancer patient’s life.
For this chapter, I consulted my colleague, Joy Hamilton, M.D., MBA, who is an expert in pain management. I will cover the following chemotherapy induced issues and treatments, from holistic to surgery if necessary.
Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)
What so many other cancer patients experience is a form of peripheral neuropathy (which we talked about in the “Burning Soles” chapter) commonly referred to as CIPN. Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is when you have injured or damaged the nerve endings on the bottoms of your feet or hands. The result is constant pain and burning both day and night, so much so that it’s difficult to sleep. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling and/or sharp, shooting or stabbing pain that is either constant or comes and goes. Poor balance, weakness, tripping, falling, difficulty determining hot and cold or picking things up are other signs of PN. As I mentioned earlier, some chemotherapy drugs can cause fungal nails. A fungal infection causes nail fungus, a condition called “onychomycosis.” The nail thickens and becomes brittle with ragged edges, distorted, dull, and discolored. Sometimes the nail lifts up off the nail bed, which is called “onycholysis.” Infected nails can be painful and make it difficult to stand and walk in closed shoes. Fungal infections usually begin at the tip of the nail – also called the “distal end” – with a white or yellow spot. As they progress, the nail will appear yellow, black or brown and become thin and flaky-looking. By this point many people are embarrassed by the unsightly appearance of their toe. Fungal infections are very hard to treat, but it’s important to get them under control so they don’t get more serious or spread to other nails. Fungal infections also make you more susceptible to getting a bacterial super infection.
In this chapter of My Feet Are Killing Me Dr. Levine discusses:
- Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)
- Fungal Nails
- How to treat Fungal Infections?