When you’re discussing your mesothelioma treatment options with your doctor, chemotherapy is likely to come up. These are powerful medications that can destroy the abnormal cells that surgery or radiation may not be able to reach. However, chemotherapy comes with side effects.
Patients shouldn’t feel like they have to accept these side effects as par for the course. Instead of tolerating them, you should discuss them with your doctor. At that point, he or she can either adjust your medication or start you on therapy that will help you deal with unfortunate ailments that accompany treatment.
Pain caused by nerve damage is a common consequence of certain chemotherapy drugs. However, new research from the University of Michigan Health System suggests that the antidepressant duloxetine, sold under the name Cymbalta, may provide some relief from chemotherapy pain.
What is the cause of chemotherapy pain?
Certain cancer-fighting drugs cause what’s known as peripheral neuropathy. Patients who have this condition experience numbing, burning or tingling sensations that begin in the hands or feet. This can make it difficult for you to walk or perform simple tasks such as fastening buttons on clothes. Ultimately, this may hurt your ability to live independently.
The scientists from the University of Michigan estimate that up to 40 percent of chemotherapy patients can develop peripheral neuropathy after completing chemotherapy.
Doctors explore the effects of Cymbalta
Cymbalta affects the brain by increasing the amounts of two chemical messengers: serotonin and norepinephrine. These effects are useful for individuals who have psychiatric problems, such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder. However, Cymbalta can also help patients who experience diabetes-induced nerve damage, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
The authors of the new study wanted to see if Cymbalta could provide pain relief from chemotherapy as well. In their experiment, they enrolled 231 patients who developed peripheral neuropathy after taking the medications paclitaxel or oxaliplatin. For five weeks, study participants either took a placebo or Cymbalta.
Results showed that 59 percent of subjects who took Cymbalta experienced relief from chemotherapy pain. The same was true for only 38 percent of those who received the placebo.
Those who were on Cymbalta also experienced greater improvements to their quality of life and less impact on their daily functioning as a consequence of chemotherapy pain.
This is what lead study author Ellen Lavoie Smith, Ph.D., APRN, AOCN, had to say about the experiment:
“Treating painful chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is critical. In some cases, physicians must reduce the patient’s chemotherapy dose when the pain becomes too severe. This is not just about improving quality of life by decreasing chemotherapy pain, but potentially it’s helping patients live longer because they can get their full chemotherapy treatment.”
If you’re experiencing pain during chemotherapy, don’t hide this from your doctor, and don’t be afraid if this means having your chemotherapy dosage reduced. The important thing for you is to live as comfortably as possible, and killing the cancer cells at the same time is still possible.
So, call your doctor if you experience sensations of tingling, burning, weakness or pain when you walk or use your hands. You should also report balance problems, uncontrollable shaking, tired muscles, hearing problems, difficulty picking things up, stomach pain or constipation.
Experts say there are other lifestyle adjustments you have to make while coping with peripheral neuropathy. These include wearing protective shoes and gloves, inspecting your feet for cuts every day and preventing accidental falls. This can be done by putting bath mats in the tub, removing rugs, putting up handrails around the home and walking with a cane.