- A recent study suggests that cold wraps applied to the extremities during chemotherapy sessions can significantly reduce the likelihood of patients developing peripheral neuropathy, a common side effect of cancer medication.
- The study was limited in scope, targeting only patients receiving a specific medication – paclitaxel (Taxol). It remains to be seen if this method is effective for patients receiving other treatments.
- The medical community has welcomed this new approach with cautious optimism, however, they emphasize that more extensive randomized trials are necessary to conclusively affirm the effectiveness of cold therapy.
- This treatment should not be initiated without supervision; it requires trained therapists to ensure the tolerability of cold temperatures during chemotherapy sessions.
- The method resembles the use of “cold caps” that are commonly utilized to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. More research is needed to understand optimal doses of cold therapy and why it appears to prevent peripheral neuropathy.
Cancer medications often inflict a side effect called peripheral neuropathy, a condition that can lead to debilitating nerve damage. However, a preliminary study has raised the possibility that cold wraps applied to the extremities may help forestall this issue.
Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy impacts the nerves in the limbs, frequently causing discomfort, numbness, and tingling, and making tasks that require balance or the use of hands and fingers difficult. Although there are various treatment options for peripheral neuropathy, none have been proven effective as preventive measures.
A recent study explored a straightforward strategy to deal with this issue: patients wore chilled gloves and socks during their chemotherapy sessions. This novel form of protection significantly reduced the patients’ likelihood of developing symptoms consistent with nerve damage.
Feedback from the Medical Community
The breakthrough has been greeted with cautious optimism by medical professionals. Observers praise the therapeutic approach as “simple and safe” but note that the study was of limited scope, focusing only on patients undergoing treatment with a singular medication, paclitaxel (Taxol). It remains uncertain whether cold therapy would benefit patients who are taking other cancer treatments.
A Word of Caution
Despite its promise, this method should not be attempted unsupervised. In the study, the frozen socks and gloves were applied during chemo, with trained therapists on hand to ensure the cold temperatures were within a tolerable range.
Testing the Cold Therapy
In the study conducted, the efficacy of cold wraps were tested on 36 women receiving paclitaxel treatment for breast cancer. Each patient was instructed to wear a chilled glove and sock on one side of her body during the therapy, leaving the other hand and foot “unprotected” for comparative purposes. The researchers used commercially available cold wraps, and no particular advanced technology was involved.
Results of the Study
The research revealed that this 90-minute procedure significantly reduced patients’ risks of neuropathy symptoms. Less than 28 percent of patients reported numbness in the hand protected by the cold glove, compared to 81 percent of unprotected hands. The outcomes were comparable with numbness in the feet: while nearly 64 percent of patients reported the symptom in their unprotected foot, only 25 percent felt the same in their foot wearing the sock.
A Possible Breakthrough
According to medical professionals, the study’s findings are encouraging. Multiple experts have echoed that, pending confirmation, this could provide a low-cost, low-risk treatment option for patients. However, there is a general consensus that more widespread, randomized trials are needed to assess the effectiveness of cold therapy.
The Importance of Preventing Peripheral Neuropathy
Averting peripheral neuropathy is vital. Not only can it significantly affect a patient’s quality of life, but it can also compel them to cease their treatment prematurely.
More Research Needed
Experts agree that further investigation is necessary to fully understand the potential of cold therapy. Questions include optimal “doses” of cold therapy and why, exactly, it appears to prevent peripheral neuropathy. Some professionals theorize that the methodology may be akin to the use of “cold caps” often employed to mitigate hair loss from chemotherapy.
The findings of the study were published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
For more information on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy visit the American Cancer Society webpage.