Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to the peripheral nerves. These are the nerves in the body outside the brain or spinal cord.
Peripheral neuropathy may be caused by cancer, cancer treatments or other health problems. It most commonly affects the hands and feet.
Know what to expect
Ask your doctor if you are likely to get peripheral neuropathy and what can be done to manage this.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can include:
- tingling, burning, numbness or pain in the hands or feet
- difficulty doing up buttons and picking up small items
- loss of feeling especially in the hands and feet
- muscle weakness
- problems with balance or walking, and clumsiness
- feeling light headed or dizzy.
Some other health problems, e.g. diabetes, can increase the risk of getting peripheral neuropathy.
Start a symptom diary
Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your cancer care team to manage them better.
Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if there is a diary they recommend, or use the example in the resources provided on this page.
Know who to contact if you have a problem
Ask your doctor or nurse:
- when you should call for help or advice
- who you should contact
- how to contact them (including at night or weekends).
Keep this information where you can easily find it.
Managing peripheral neuropathy
Tell your doctor or nurse about any symptoms before your next treatment. Your doctor might make changes to your treatment to prevent further nerve damage.
If you have peripheral neuropathy, it is important to prevent injury and take care of your hands and feet.
Severe peripheral neuropathy
If your peripheral neuropathy symptoms are getting worse, call your doctor or nurse. Use the contact numbers you have been given by your cancer care team.
Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.