General cancer information

Peripheral neuropathy

General cancer information

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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.

If you develop numbness or tingling of your hands or feet, let your doctor or nurse know about this before your next treatment.

Be prepared

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
  • constipation
  • 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.

checklist Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Managing symptoms

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.

Treatment changes

Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.

checklist Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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