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Cryotherapy May Help Prevent Neuropathy Caused by Taxol Chemotherapy

BluebirdOne's picture
Posts: 455
Joined: Jul 2018

I am not sure this article has been posted before, but I thought I would post it. We uterine cancer patients get treated with the same types of chemo. Might be a good article to show to your treatment group if they balk. 


For people diagnosed with breast cancer, the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is chemotherapy, especially platinum and taxane chemotherapy medicines. Chemotherapy medicines travel throughout the body, where they can damage the nerves.

Taxane chemotherapy medicines include Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel), Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel), and Abraxane (chemical name: nab-paclitaxel). Platinum chemotherapy medicines include carboplatin.

A small study suggests that wearing frozen gloves and socks for 90 minutes during Taxol chemotherapy can help control neuropathy symptoms.

Doctors call therapies that use extreme cold as a treatment cryotherapy.

The research was published online on Oct. 12, 2017 by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Read “Effects of Cryotherapy on Objective and Subjective Symptoms of Paclitaxel-Induced Neuropathy: Prospective Self-Controlled Trial.”

In the study, 36 people diagnosed with breast cancer who were being treated with weekly Taxol infusions for 12 weeks wore frozen gloves and socks on their dominant hand and foot from 15 minutes before the Taxol infusion to 15 minutes after the infusion was complete for a total of 90 minutes. The frozen gloves were replaced after the first 45 minutes.

The researchers compared neuropathy symptoms in the hand and foot that wore the frozen garments to symptoms in the hand and foot that didn’t wear the frozen garments.

To compare neuropathy symptoms, the researchers measured the participants' sensitivity to touch, temperature, and vibration, as well as their dexterity before the study started and then again after the 12-week chemotherapy regimen was completed.

None of the people dropped out of the study because they couldn’t tolerate wearing the frozen gloves and socks.

The researchers found that the hands and feet that wore the frozen gloves and socks had less loss of sensitivity to touch and temperature than the hands and feet that didn’t wear the frozen garments:

  • 27.8% of the hands that wore the frozen gloves lost some sensitivity to touch
  • 80.6% of the hands that didn’t wear the frozen gloves lost some sensitivity to touch
  • 25.0% of the feet that wore the frozen socks lost some sensitivity to touch
  • 63.9% of the feet that didn’t wear the frozen socks lost some sensitivity to touch
  • 8.8% of the hands that wore the frozen gloves lost some sensitivity to warmth
  • 32.4% of the hands that didn’t wear the frozen gloves lost some sensitivity to warmth
  • 33.4% of the feet that wore the frozen socks lost some sensitivity to warmth
  • 57.6% of the feet that didn’t wear the frozen socks lost some sensitivity to warmth

These differences were statistically significant, which means that it was likely due to the frozen glove and sock treatment and not just because of chance.

The hands that didn’t wear the frozen gloves also took more time to perform the test that measured dexterity compared to the hands that wore the frozen gloves.

"We conclude that cryotherapy is a simple, safe, and effective strategy for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in patients with cancer undergoing paclitaxel treatment," the researchers wrote. "Cryotherapy could support the delivery of optimal chemotherapy by preventing a dose delay or reduction, as well as inhibiting the deterioration of quality of life in cancer patients during and after treatment."

In an editorial that was published with the study, Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board member Dawn Hershman, M.D., of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, said that despite the success of study, it remains unclear whether cryotherapy also would benefit people being treated with platinum chemotherapy medicines.

"If the results are confirmed, cryotherapy has the advantage of a limited side effect profile, is low-cost, and it appears to prevent components of neuropathy other than [just] neuropathic pain," Hershman wrote. "Ultimately a better understanding of the biologic mechanisms causing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy will improve our ability to effectively prevent and treat all components of this toxicity."

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and taxane chemotherapy is in your treatment plan, you may want to talk to your doctor about this study and whether wearing frozen socks and mittens during your infusion might make sense for you. While the results haven’t been confirmed, the side effects of wearing frozen gloves and socks during chemotherapy are minimal and may help. You also may have to be prepared to bring your own frozen garments because it’s not clear how many treatment centers offer this option.

For more information, visit the Breastcancer.org Neuropathy page.


derMaus's picture
Posts: 561
Joined: Nov 2016

Excellent information, thank you for posting.

Quilter_1's picture
Posts: 118
Joined: Mar 2019

I went and am still going to a very well respected cancer center in the Midwest, I feel that I am receiving excellent care.  However, I had the carbo taxol protocol and no one mentioned any type of cryotherapy.  Now I am dealing with neuropathy in my feet and a slight amount in my hands.  I didn’t learn about ice or cold therapy until I read about it on these boards.  I’m so disappointed in my care team.  My neuropathy is getting better and may or may not go away, but an opportunity to avoid it was lost.

EZLiving66's picture
Posts: 1479
Joined: Oct 2015

I also was never given any information on icing my hands and feet and suffer from neuropathy. It makes me mad that I was never given the choice.  I believe we are the "poor relation" in the grand scheme of cancer treatment!



TeddyandBears_Mom's picture
Posts: 1802
Joined: Jun 2015

Great article. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully, this will become the norm to save people from having to deal with long term issues.

Love and Hugs,


BluebirdOne's picture
Posts: 455
Joined: Jul 2018

of neuropathy, it is worth it. 

Quilter_1's picture
Posts: 118
Joined: Mar 2019

Yes, even if icing only limits it, less neuropathy would be a better option.  I wish I would have known about it before beginning treatment.

Lulu7582's picture
Posts: 112
Joined: Jun 2018

I do believe that icing the feet and hands is worth it. This second time around with Taxol I already had some numbness in my toes, nothing in my hands but didn't want to chance the neuropathy getting worse. So I did ice my hands and feet. My center doesn't offer any icing stuff so I went on Amazon and picked up some products to freeze and bring with me for the infusion. After the additional 4 cycles of Taxol my numbness in my toes has stayed the same and nothing in my hands.....yay!!! So my advice icing definitely can't hurt!!! xo

Posts: 1576
Joined: Jun 2012

All cancer centers should be providing this education. The stuff we had to put into are bodies is so scary. I remember watching the first infusion start and marveling that I was allowing poison to drip into my body. Why on earth wouldn't we want to to be given a chance to prevent horrible  side effects by doing something that won't cause any?

Armywife's picture
Posts: 452
Joined: Feb 2018

So thankful to have learned about this here first.  Can't wait to provide this link to my gyn/onc nurse case manager to distribute!

Posts: 244
Joined: Jun 2019

So grateful all of u recommended icing to me as they never mentioned it as my Center as an option for prevention or minimizing neurapathy   I was told it doesnt help. I said I'd rather try it than not give it a chance  to help.

Glad I did. Wishing I kept my hands as cold as my feet . Next treatment I will for sure!

Thanks for posting this article!

Posts: 1153
Joined: Jun 2016

I wish these places wouldn't be so dismissive of icing as some can be. It doesn't hurt and there's enough of us here with first-hand experience that it does help that they should give some consideration to it. CIPN is such an awful side effect with little effective treatment once you have it, so I just don't understand objection to such a safe means of prevention even if it doesn't necessariy work 100% of the time or is as well studied as drugs are. 

I was warned before chemo that I might get some numbness or tingling in my feet and hands from chemo, but I think they downplay that concern so as not to scare you about it too much ahead of time. The reality of it is so much worse than that and you feel so helpless if you're left to live with it when there is so little out there that truly relieves it even for a little while. Maybe our continuing airing of our experiences with icing will eventually get it into the standard of care or at least instigate more research on it.

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