Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common problem for people fighting cancer. I meet people everyday who tell me that this as a major side effect of their cancer treatment. This is especially true for women with breast cancer who are using a taxane-based drug as part of their treatment protocol. Taxanes are a class of drugs which work by inhibiting cell division, and include drugs such as Taxol (aka. Paclitaxel) and Taxotere (aka Docetaxel).
The degree of peripheral neuropathy a person fighting cancer may experience can vary, from being a minor annoyance to severely inhibiting their quality of life. Often, peripheral neuropathy is progressive, with the severity of the neuropathy increasing with more exposure to taxane drugs.
There are many different treatments being used to try and provide relief for people with this type of neuropathy. Unfortunately, none of these treatments have proven very effective for everyone experiencing neuropathy. Some people find themselves in the precarious situation of having to stop or delay their cancer treatments due to progressing neuropathy.
Fortunately, there is hope from naturopathic medicine. A recent study published in the prestigious Journal of the National Institute described how a women’s lifestyle factors can greatly improve their odds of treating neuropathy. In this study over 1200 women who had been treated with taxane drugs were followed and information about their degree of neuropathy and their lifestyle were assessed. The researchers determined the women’s body mass index (BMI), their level of physical activity, and their intake of fruits and vegetables.
What the researchers found was that at the start of the study 65% of the women were overweight or obese, 30% had low levels of physical activity, and 57% had a low intake of fruits and vegetables. These statistics are unfortunately not very surprising for women with breast cancer, as the disease tends to occur more frequently in those carrying extra weight, those with infrequent exercise habits, and those with low intakes of fruits and vegetables. Please hear me when I say this disease is easier to prevent than it is to treat.
So what did the researchers find? The results of this study found that overweight and obese women were more likely to suffer from CIPN, as were women who did not engage in regular exercise. You can read the abstract of this research HERE.
By incorporating healthy lifestyle choices into their daily routine people can improve their health in a variety of ways. First, the majority of cancers can be prevented with healthy lifestyles. Second, cancer treatments are more effective in those with healthier bodies, ie. healthy weight, good exercise habits, and the right foods. And thirdly, incorporating lifestyle-based naturopathic medicine into a cancer treatment plan can lessen the side effects of chemotherapy, including peripheral neuropathy, and often improves outcomes.
Be proactive in your fight against cancer. Start making health-promoting changes now. After over a decade working with people fighting cancer I can tell you that adding naturopathic and lifestyle medicine into a cancer fighting treatment plan is your best recipe for success.