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Neurofeedback Benefits for Chemotherapy Related Nerve Damage

Chemotherapy Related Nerve Damage

Nerve damage is a common adverse effect of certain chemotherapy drugs used to combat cancer. Researchers are hoping they have found a low-risk treatment for this very prevalent concern.


Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy or CIPN is caused by damage to the nerves that control sensation and movement in the arms and legs. Many describe it as a tingling or numbness (when it is mild) or a shooting, stabbing, or burning pain at its most severe. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 30-40% of patients treated with chemotherapy experience this side effect, although some other estimates are higher.

The chemotherapy drugs most associated with CIPN include platinum compounds (such as cisplatin or carboplatin), Vincristine, Taxanes (docetaxel, paclitaxel), and thalidomide.

Currently, there is only one approved medication to treat CIPN – but it comes with its own set of problems such as muscle aches and nausea. However, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have found that neurofeedback (also known as EEG Biofeedback) may reduce neuropathy symptoms without the negative side effects.

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Neurofeedback is direct training of brain function to help the brain work more efficiently. Sarah Prinsloo PhD, assistant professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine, has identified a location of brain activity that contributes to the physical and emotional aspects of chronic pain. By targeting these areas, neurofeedback can help “retrain” brain activity in response to pain.

Seventy-one patients of all cancer types participated in a study for 20 sessions over the course of three months and had positive responses to pain perception, cancer related symptoms and quality of life questions.

"We observed clinically and statistically significant reductions in peripheral neuropathy following neurofeedback techniques," said Prinsloo. "This research suggests that neurofeedback may be a valuable approach to reduce neuropathy symptoms and their impact on daily activities."

Journal Reference:
Sarah Prinsloo, et al. Randomized controlled trial of neurofeedback on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: A pilot study. Cancer, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.30649

Photo Credit:
By Belanidia - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons