How Do Cancer Treatments Affect Your Feet?

How Do Cancer Treatments Affect Your Feet?

Cancerous tumors 一 including those associated with Ewing's sarcoma as well as metastases一 can develop in the bones of your feet. Tumors in any bones can cause pain and swelling, but when they develop in your feet, they can severely affect your mobility. 

While the tumors themselves affect your feet, cancer treatments can also affect your feet, even if your primary tumors aren’t in your feet. 

Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, oral chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy, are all designed to target cancer cells, but healthy cells can be affected. 

Our board-certified podiatrists here at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists understand the complexities of cancer treatments and how they affect your feet. If you’re experiencing foot issues as a result of cancer treatments, we encourage you to visit one of our southeast Florida offices at the first sign of foot trouble.

In the meantime, learn more about the effects of cancer treatments on your feet.

Increased risk of infections

Cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy, can leave your immune system weakened. You may develop neutropenia, which means that you have a low white blood cell count. Without enough white blood cells, your immune system can’t function as well as it does normally. 

This means that your body may not be able to fight off infections as easily. While this includes common colds and viral illnesses, it also includes foot infections. A scrape, cut, or blister on your foot may easily become infected if your immune system isn’t strong enough to fend off the invading bacteria.

Cancer treatments compromise your immune system by decreasing your white blood cell count, but they also increase your risk of infection by decreasing your appetite. Many people don’t feel well enough to eat a well-balanced meal while going through chemotherapy. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies. 

The combination of a weak immune system and vitamin deficiency makes it difficult for your body to deal with foot wounds.

Increased risk of foot ulcers

When your immune system is compromised, any infections that do develop may be slow to heal. Slow-healing wounds, also called ulcers, can quickly spiral out of control, leading to gangrene (tissue death).

Cancer treatments target the cell cycle to stop cancer cells from copying themselves. While this helps to stop the spread of cancer, it does limit cellular replication in other cells too. This can slow down tissue repair and make any foot wound or infection more difficult to heal. 

Increased risk of peripheral neuropathy

Cancer treatments can also increase your risk of peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that causes tingling sensations, pain, and even numbness. 

The numbness can be particularly dangerous. The loss of full sensation means that you may not realize you’ve cut yourself, and any wound can quickly become infected due to a weakened immune system.

Nail and skin issues

Cancer treatments can also affect your toenails. According to a 2018 review, cancer treatments can contribute to many foot issues, including nail toxicities, hand-foot syndrome, edema, xerosis (dry skin on feet), and hyperkeratosis (thickened skin). 

Nail toxicity happens when medications used to fight cancer affect the health of your nails. You might see black or brown streaks on some or all of your nails. They may even appear fully discolored.

Are cancer treatments affecting your feet?

If you have any concerns about your foot health or spot any concerning symptoms, speak with your oncology team immediately. 

When you arrive here at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists, we can help you get the treatment you need in a timely fashion to help avoid complications like gangrene

Our team performs a comprehensive foot exam, looking for any signs of slow-healing wounds and peripheral neuropathy. We also review your symptoms and recommend the right treatment for you. Potential treatments may include:

To learn more about your treatment options or to book an appointment, contact the location of your choice: Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale (3 locations), Hollywood, or Tamarac, Florida.

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