When it comes to cancer and its prevalence in today, there is both bad news and good news.
First, the bad news: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that, in 2018 alone, more than 1.7 million Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis. For comparison purposes, this is roughly the population of the entire state of Idaho according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, for roughly 609,650 individuals, this will also be the year they lose their battle with this dreaded disease.
Now, for the good news—if there is such a thing with cancer—is that more people are surviving this disease every day. In fact, the NCI states that cancer mortality rates are declining annually, a trend that started back in the ’90s and is expected to continue for several more years to come, or at least until 2026.
One reason for this is likely due to earlier diagnosis, which means faster treatment. And one of the most well-known treatments for many types of cancer is chemotherapy, or “chemo” for short. But it is also one of the most controversial, mainly because of its oftentimes taxing effects on the human body.
Chemotherapy’s toll on the body
The American Cancer Society (ACS) explains that chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cancer cells. Yet in the process it also kills healthy cells too, with the areas of the body most impacted by chemo being bone marrow, hair follicles, and the digestive and reproductive systems.
This can create a series of negative side effects for chemotherapy patients, some of which include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Hair loss
- Increased risk of infection
- Changes in mood or “chemo brain”
- Intimacy and fertility problems
Every person’s body responds to chemotherapy differently, so not everyone will have the same reactions to treatment. Plus, while one effect may show up in mild form for one person, it may be much more severe for another.
There are also additional effects that can be experienced by individuals undergoing chemotherapy. One to consider is chemo-related peripheral neuropathy.
Chemo-related neuropathy: causes and symptoms
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, peripheral neuropathy can result from chemotherapy treatments if it affects “the nerves that connect the spinal cord to muscles, skin, and internal organs.” Furthermore, whether this neuropathy appears depends largely on the type of chemotherapy used, as well as the dosage the patient receives.
Sloan Kettering goes on to say that sometimes chemo-induced neuropathy is experienced as feelings of numbness, tingling or pain in the outer extremities (the fingers and toes). Other times it can appear on a larger scale and shows up in the muscles, instigating cramps and increasing feelings of weakness and fatigue.
If chemotherapy affects the nerves involved in movement, Sloan Kettering says that neuropathy could also be accompanied by increased bouts of dizziness, blood pressure issues, or even an irregular heartbeat. Urinary or bowel changes may be present in this instance too.
Neuropathy and chiropractic
This is because chiropractic care is able to “reduce stress and increase mobility, flexibility, strength and function” for the cancer patient.
Research published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences shows that using chiropractic for peripheral neuropathy is actually fairly common, with 21 percent of individuals with neuropathy reporting that they engaged in chiropractic manipulations as a way to mitigate their symptoms.
This study also found that the No. 1 reason patients sought out alternative treatments was pain control. About 1 in 4 reported that remedies such as acupuncture and taking herbs did help improve their symptoms. Other studies have found similar results.
For instance, a research article published in Pain Management Nursing in April 2018 discusses how chiropractic in combination with medical treatment “creates efficacy, improves symptom control, alleviates patient distress and reduces suffering” for patients who are battling cancer. Ultimately, it can help increase their quality of life while facing one of the most dreaded conditions that exists today.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that complementary and alternative medicine can help patients cope with treatment-based side effects, ease worries and stress, and “feel that they are doing something more to help their own care.” Thus, in conjunction with standard medical care, the incorporation of chiropractic into a cancer patient’s care regimen can convey many potential benefits.