Study of Neurotoxic Effects on Women undergoing Chemotherapy with Taxanes

Background: Neurotoxic side effects occur frequently in patients receiving chemotherapy regimes and are related to the cumulative dose, dose intensity, the use of growth factors and previous chemotherapy regimes. Compared with other symptoms of side effects, neurotoxicity has not been investigated adequately by health professionals. Aim: To study the effects of neurotoxicity in female patients receiving chemotherapy. Method: The study sample comprised 35 women with histologically confirmed cancer (27 with breast cancer and 8 with ovarian cancer). The women received chemotherapy based on taxanes (one group received paclitaxel and the other docetaxel), either alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutic substances, and they were evaluated at two time points, at the start of chemotherapy and after completion of the course. The assessment included the measurement of deep pain sensation, muscular strength, peripheral neuropathy, and the impact of neuropathy on specific dimensions of quality of life. Results: The muscular power of patients who received paclitaxel or docetaxel was not affected. Neuropathy was detected in the upper and lower extremities following both forms of chemotherapy, which was symmetrical. At the end of chemotherapy a statistically significant (p<0.05) decrease was found in vibration sensation, with the highest percentages in the group of patients treated with paclitaxel. Physical function was significantly affected in the patients who received paclitaxel, while role performance was significantly affected in both groups. The assessment of peripheral neuropathy revealed statistically significant changes following chemotherapy in both groups of patients. Conclusions: The study findings confirm the severity of neurotoxicity in patients receiving chemotherapy with taxanes, and its negative effects on the daily living activities of the patients which significantly aggravate their quality of life. Application of the specific tool used in this study can contribute to the holistic assessment of peripheral neuropathy in patients undergoing chemotherapy.