Even though advancements in cancer treatments have helped patients live longer, the treatments do cause adverse reactions throughout your body. Most notably, cancer treatments cause nausea, lack of appetite, and hair loss, but they can also affect your feet.
Our board-certified podiatrists at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists understand the complex relationship between cancer and foot health, including how many treatments lead to nail toxicity and peripheral neuropathy.
We encourage you to seek podiatric care if your feet are affected by your cancer treatments. In the meantime, we discuss how cancer affects your feet and how we can help.
How cancer treatments affect your feet
When you’re undergoing cancer treatments, you may have any combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. While these treatments aggressively target cancer cells, they can take a toll on your body, and that includes your feet.
If you can identify how cancer treatment might affect your feet, you’ll be prepared to ask for help at the first sign of foot trouble.
With that in mind, here are four ways that cancer treatments can affect your feet.
Chemotherapy, radiation, and even immunotherapy can weaken your immune system. Chemotherapy is notorious for causing neutropenia (reduced numbers of a certain type of white blood cells).
People undergoing cancer treatment have an increased risk of infection for another reason: Loss of appetite can lead to vitamin deficiencies. Between a compromised immune system and poor nutrition, your body lacks the resources to deal with foot wounds properly.
Because cancer treatments weaken your immune system, any infections that develop can be slow to heal. This is because your body can’t heal wounds (even a simple blister) as it normally would.
Cancer treatments can limit cellular replication, induce inflammatory reactions, and slow down tissue repair 一 all processes that normally help wounds heal quickly. Slow-healing wounds are dangerous because they increase your risk of gangrene and amputation.
In addition to increased foot infections and slow-healing wounds, cancer can increase your risk of peripheral neuropathy. This type of nerve damage can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in your feet.
Because neuropathy can contribute to numbness, you could injure or cut your foot without realizing it. This can also lead to infections and slow-healing wounds.
Cancer treatments affect your feet, but so can the tumors themselves. If you have a tumor in your feet, it can limit your mobility, cause pain, and contribute to swelling.
How to know if cancer treatments are affecting your feet
If you’re undergoing any type of cancer treatment and start to see signs of infection, slow-healing wounds, or neuropathy, let your oncology team know. Get treatment as soon as possible to avoid further complications such as gangrene.
During your visit here at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists, we look for signs of ulcers, wounds, peripheral neuropathy, and any other abnormalities. Depending on the specific issues you have, we might recommend any of the following:
- Surgical wound healing
- Nonsurgical wound healing, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Pain medication
- Steroid injections
- Physical therapy
- Bioengineered skin substitutes
To learn more about how cancer affects your feet and how we can support your foot health throughout your cancer treatment journey, request an appointment at the location of your choice today. We have offices in Tamarac, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Coral Springs, and Boca Raton, Florida.