Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathy and Its Association With Quality of Life Among 2- to 11-Year Colorectal Cancer Survivors: Results From the Population-Based PROFILES Registry
To gain insight into the prevalence and severity of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and its influence on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in a population-based sample of colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors 2 to 11 years after diagnosis.
All alive individuals diagnosed with CRC between 2000 and 2009 as registered by the Dutch population-based Eindhoven Cancer Registry were eligible for participation. Eighty-three percent (n = 1,643) of patients filled out the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life Questionnaire (QLQ) C30 and the EORTC QLQ Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy 20.
The five neuropathy subscale–related symptoms that bothered patients with CRC the most during the past week were erectile problems (42% of men), trouble hearing (11%), trouble opening jars or bottles (11%), tingling toes/feet (10%), and trouble walking stairs or standing up (9%). Additionally, patients who received oxaliplatin more often reported tingling (29% v 8%; P = .001), numbness (17% v 5%; P = .005), and aching or burning pain (13% v 6%; P = .03) in toes/feet compared with those not treated with chemotherapy. They also more often reported tingling toes/feet (29% v 14%; P = .0127) compared with those treated with chemotherapy without oxaliplatin. Those with many neuropathy symptoms (eg, upper 10%) reported statistically significant and clinically relevant worse HRQOL scores on all EORTC QLQ-C30 subscales (all P < .01).
Two to 11 years after diagnosis of CRC, neuropathy-related symptoms are still reported, especially sensory symptoms in the lower extremities among those treated with oxaliplatin. Because neuropathy symptoms have a negative influence on HRQOL, these should be screened for and alleviated. Future studies should focus on prevention and relief of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cause of cancer among men and women in the Western world.1 In 2007, 12,000 patients were diagnosed with CRC in the Netherlands, and this number is expected to increase to 17,000 in 2020.2 Simultaneously, the 10-year prevalence will increase by 56%, from 59,000 to 92,000,2 mainly because of the aging of the population and improved survival rates. The current 5-year survival rate for CRC in the Netherlands is 59%.3
As a result of the increasing prevalence, more patients are living with the long-term adverse effects of CRC and its treatment. The development of neuropathy, a common adverse effect of the platinum agent oxaliplatin, is especially a major concern that may negatively influence a patients' health-related quality of life (HRQOL).4 Oxaliplatin, in combination with fluorouracil or its oral analogs, is now the regimen of choice for adjuvant treatment of patients with node-positive CRC.5,6 Treatment and prevention of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy remains difficult.7
Acute neuropathy, which is often cold-triggered with distal paresthesias, dysesthesias, and mild muscle contractions of hands, feet, and perioral region, occurs most frequently.7 This reverses in up to 90% of cases after oxaliplatin is discontinued.5 However, a significant proportion of patients experience chronic neuropathy, which is mainly sensory.5,8,9 An Australian study reported that neuropathy persisted in 79% of patients after a median follow-up of 29 months.10 Furthermore, a European trial showed that 26% of patients with grade 3 neurotoxicity had persistent symptoms after a median of 28 months of follow-up.8 Additionally, more than 10% of patients in the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project C-07 trial had persistent neuropathy 2 years after completing therapy,9 whereas the MOSAIC (Multicenter International Study of Oxaliplatin/Fluorouracil/Leucovorin in the Adjuvant Treatment of Colon Cancer) trial reported a grade 1 to 3 neuropathy prevalence of 30% 1 year after treatment and 24% after 18 months.5 The previously mentioned studies show that the prevalence of chronic neuropathy varies significantly between studies, which is most likely caused by the limitations of current grading scales and the absence of consensus on the gold standard for symptom assessment.11–13 Because of the increasing prevalence of CRC and the increased use of oxaliplatin, it is likely that neuropathy will become a major cancer survivorship issue.
Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy can be severe, may result in serious limitations in daily functioning, and might therefore have a negative impact on HRQOL. Nonetheless, the literature on the association between neuropathy and HRQOL is scarce. Besides, the existing studies are small, and the use of validated HRQOL questionnaires is low. More importantly, most studies have focused on acute instead of chronic neuropathy, whereas a large proportion of patients with CRC will become long-term survivors, and neuropathy therefore might be a chronic problem.
Therefore, our aim was to gain insight into the prevalence, severity, and symptoms of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy among a population-based sample of CRC survivors, up to 11 years after diagnosis. Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy was assessed with a self-report instrument to determine its burden on daily life. In addition, the impact of neuropathy on HRQOL was studied.
Data collection was performed within PROFILES (Patient Reported Outcomes Following Initial Treatment and Long Term Evaluation of Survivorship), which is a registry for the physical and psychosocial impact of cancer and its treatment from a dynamic, growing population-based cohort of cancer survivors.14 PROFILES contains a large web-based component and is linked directly to the Eindhoven Cancer Registry (ECR), which compiles data of all individuals newly diagnosed with cancer in the southern part of the Netherlands.15 Data from the PROFILES registry will be available for noncommercial scientific research, subject to study question, privacy and confidentiality restrictions, and registration.16
Our survey was set up in December 2010. All individuals diagnosed with CRC between 2000 and 2009 as registered in the ECR were eligible for participation (except those already included in a 2009 PROFILES survey17,18). Patients who had cognitive impairment, had died before start of the study (according to the ECR; the Central Bureau for Genealogy, which collects information on all deceased Dutch citizens via the civil municipal registries; and hospital records), or had unverifiable addresses were excluded. One year later, the second data collection wave took place, which included a questionnaire on neuropathy. The data presented in this article are based on this second wave. This study was approved by a certified medical ethics committee. All patients signed informed consent.
Survivors were informed of the study via a letter from their (ex-) attending specialist. Nonrespondents were sent a reminder within 2 months.
Survivors' sociodemographic and clinical information was available from the ECR, which routinely collects data such as date of diagnosis, tumor grade,19 clinical stage,19 and treatment. Comorbidity at time of the study was assessed with the adapted Self-Administered Comorbidity Questionnaire.20 Socioeconomic status was determined by an indicator developed by Statistics Netherlands.21 Questions on marital status, educational level, and current occupation were added to the questionnaire.
The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life Questionnaire (QLQ) C30 (version 3.0) was used to assess HRQOL.22 It contains five functional scales on physical, role, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning; a global health status/QOL scale; three symptoms scales on fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and pain; and six single items assessing dyspnea, insomnia, loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea, and financial impact. Each item is scored from 1 (not at all) to 4 (very much), except for the global QOL scale, which ranges from 1 (very poor) to 7 (excellent). Scores were linearly transformed to a 0 to 100 scale23; a higher score on the functional scales and global QOL means better functioning and QOL, whereas a higher score on the symptom scales mean more complaints.
Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy was assessed with the EORTC QLQ Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy 20 (CIPN20),24 which contains three subscales assessing sensory, motor, and autonomic symptoms. Each item is measured on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 4 (very much). Scores were linearly transformed to a 0 to 100 scale, with higher scores representing more complaints.
ECR data on demographic and clinical characteristics enabled us to compare the group of respondents, nonrespondents, and patients with unverifiable addresses, using t tests for continuous and χ2 analyses for categorical variables. Differences in sociodemographic and clinical characteristics between patients who did or did not receive chemotherapy treatment were analyzed in a similar way.
For the total group, responses to all questions of the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 were shown in percentages. Because oxaliplatin has been used since 2007, logistic regression analyses were performed on this selected group of patients with CRC to detect differences regarding experienced neuropathy problems in the past week (EORTC QLQ-CIPN20; answer categories “quite a bit” or “very much” combined) between the different treatments. Analyses were adjusted for stage, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, which are comorbid conditions that are known to be associated with neuropathy-like symptoms.
Mean scores on the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 subscales, stratified by treatment, were compared with analyses of covariance for patients with colon and rectal cancer diagnosed since 2007. Confounding background variables included for adjustment in these analyses were determined a priori25 and chosen to be stage, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Clinically meaningful differences were determined with Norman's rule of thumb, whereby a difference of ≈0.5 standard deviation indicates a threshold of discriminant change.26 In addition, multivariate linear regression models were used to investigate the association between sociodemographic and clinical characteristics with the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 subscales and the most important single questions of the sensory scale.
Finally, among the total group of CRC survivors, a comparison of EORTC QLQ-C30 subscale scores between those who reported low or high (eg, top 10% of patients) sensory symptoms was made with analyses of covariance. Confounding background variables included for adjustment were determined a priori25 and chosen to be age at time of questionnaire, years since diagnosis, marital status, stage, number of comorbid conditions, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Clinically important differences were determined on EORTC QLQ-C30 guidelines.27
All tests were two-sided, considered significant if P < .05, and were performed using SAS (version 9.2 for Windows; SAS institute, Cary NC).
Data collected during the second data wave of a study among CRC survivors was used, which had a response rate of 83% (n = 1,643). There were no significant differences between respondents, nonrespondents, and those with nonverified addresses with respect to sociodemographic and clinical characteristics (Table 1). Of the total group of respondents, 500 patients (31%) were treated with chemotherapy, and they were significantly younger, diagnosed more recently, and more often diagnosed with colon instead of rectal cancer compared with those not treated with chemotherapy (Table 2). Furthermore, they had a higher disease stage and grade at diagnosis, reported a higher body mass index, and were more often employed at the time of survey.
|Characteristic||Respondents (n = 1,643, 83%) ||Nonrespondents (n = 322, 16%) ||Nonverified Addresses (n = 5, 0.3%) ||P|
|Age at time of survey, years||.3530|
|Years since last diagnosis||.2789|
|Location of tumor||.62|
|Tumor differentiation grade||.1314|
|Surgery and radiotherapy||386||24||75||23||1||20|
|Surgery and chemotherapy||354||22||57||18||3||60|
|Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy||139||9||19||6||0||0|
Abbreviation: SD, standard deviation.
|Characteristic||Chemotherapy (n = 500, 31%) ||No Chemotherapy (n = 1,131, 69%) ||P|
|Age at time of survey, years||< .001|
|Age at time of survey, years||< .001|
|Years since diagnosis||.0018|
|Location of tumor||< .001|
|TNM stage||< .001|
|Tumor differentiation grade||.005|
|No. of comorbid conditions||.1442|
|Most frequent conditions|
|High blood pressure||162||32||396||35||.3050|
|< 18.4 (underweight)||3||1||10||1|
|18.5 to 24.9 (normal)||146||29||418||38|
|25 to 29.9 (overweight)||251||50||498||45|
|> 30 (obese)||98||20||190||17|
|Current occupation status||.0007|
NOTE. Some variables exceed 100% because of rounding off.
Abbreviations: BMI, body mass index; SD, standard deviation.
*Education: Low (no or primary school); medium (lower general secondary education or vocational training); high (pre-university education, high vocational training, university).
Among the total group diagnosed 2 to 11 years ago, the five neuropathy subscale–related symptoms that bothered them the most during the past week were trouble getting or maintaining an erection (42% of men), trouble hearing (11%), trouble opening a jar or bottle because of loss of strength in hands (11%), tingling toes or feet (10%), and trouble walking stairs or standing up from a chair due to weakness in legs (9%; Table 3).
|EORTC QLQ-CIPN20*||Not at All ||A Little ||Quite a Bit ||Very Much |
|Sensory symptoms and problems|
|1. Tingling fingers or hands?||1,161||72||308||19||113||7||23||1|
|2. Tingling toes or feet?||1,220||76||229||14||120||8||34||2|
|3. Numbness in fingers or hands?||1,302||82||220||14||57||4||18||1|
|4. Numbness in toes or feet?||1,284||80||207||13||76||5||30||2|
|5. Aching or burning pain in fingers or hands?||1,428||89||112||7||52||3||10||1|
|6. Aching or burning pain in toes or feet?||1,370||85||146||9||65||4||27||2|
|9. Trouble standing or walking?||1,344||84||174||11||59||4||29||2|
|10. Trouble distinguishing temperature of hot and cold water?||1,546||96||42||3||16||1||7||0|
|18. Trouble hearing?||1,006||63||418||26||142||9||43||3|
|7. Cramps in hands?||1,268||79||267||17||59||4||13||1|
|8. Cramps in feet?||1,131||71||334||21||109||7||24||2|
|11. Trouble holding a pen which made writing difficult?||1,431||89||132||8||31||2||17||1|
|12. Trouble handling small objects (eg, buttoning a blouse)?||1,203||75||301||19||70||4||35||2|
|13. Trouble opening jar/bottle due to loss of strength in hands?||1,105||69||329||20||131||8||48||3|
|14. Trouble walking because your feet come down to hard?||1,473||92||76||5||39||2||17||1|
|15. Trouble walking stairs or standing up from a chair due to weakness in legs?||1,192||74||274||17||98||6||48||3|
|19. Only for those driving cars: Trouble driving due to use of pedals?||1,228||93||44||3||8||1||1||0|
|16. Dizziness after standing up?||1,275||79||270||17||53||3||11||1|
|17. Blurry vision?||1,299||81||256||16||37||2||12||1|
|20. Only for males: Trouble getting or maintaining an erection?||238||26||189||21||139||16||229||26|
Abbreviation: EORTC QLQ-CIPN20, European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy 20.
*Please indicate the extent to which you experienced these symptoms or problems during the past week.
Logistic regression analyses among patients with CRC diagnosed from 2007 onward (eg, after the introduction of oxaliplatin) showed that those treated with oxaliplatin more often reported tingling (29% v 8%; P = .001), numbness (17% v 5%; P = .0047), and aching or burning pain (13% v 6%; P = .0293) in toes or feet compared with those not treated with chemotherapy (Table 4). In addition, those treated with oxaliplatin more often reported tingling toes or feet (29% v 14%; P = .0127) compared with those treated with chemotherapy without oxaliplatin.
|EORTC QLQ-CIPN20||No Chemotherapy (n = 524) ||Chemotherapy Without Oxaliplatin (n = 118) ||Oxaliplatin (n = 162) ||P*||P†|
|Sensory symptoms and problems|
|1. Tingling fingers or hands?||36||7||14||12||24||15||.1956||.4543|
|2. Tingling toes or feet?||44||8||17||14||47||29||.0010||.0127|
|3. Numbness in fingers or hands?||24||5||7||6||8||5||.6064||.6413|
|4. Numbness in toes or feet?||27||5||13||11||28||17||.0047||.1733|
|5. Aching or burning pain in fingers or hands?||24||5||4||3||6||4||.9657||.6884|
|6. Aching or burning pain in toes or feet?||31||6||8||7||21||13||.0293||.0910|
|9. Trouble standing or walking?||33||6||9||8||16||10||.2557||.4343|
|10. Trouble distinguishing temperature of hot and cold water?||7||1||1||1||5||3||‡||‡|
|18. Trouble hearing?||57||11||13||11||18||11||.7691||.8953|
|7. Cramps in hands?||25||5||5||4||3||2||‡||‡|
|8. Cramps in feet?||46||9||10||9||12||7||.5303||.8334|
|11. Trouble holding a pen which made writing difficult?||19||4||6||5||3||2||.3858||.1969|
|12. Trouble handling small objects (eg, buttoning a blouse)?||35||7||11||9||14||9||.7311||.9216|
|13. Trouble opening jar/bottle due to loss of strength in hands?||60||11||16||14||19||12||.8356||.8111|
|14. Trouble walking because your feet come down to hard?||18||3||5||4||5||3||.9629||.7411|
|15. Trouble walking stairs or standing up from a chair due to weakness in legs?||52||10||13||11||14||9||.4276||.5154|
|19. Only for those driving cars: Trouble driving due to use of pedals?||19||4||2||2||6||4||.6080||.2742|
|16. Dizziness after standing up?||28||5||2||2||4||3||.9386||.4504|
|17. Blurry vision?||17||3||2||2||6||4||.3526||.2471|
|20. Only for males: Trouble getting or maintaining an erection?||162||31||39||33||37||23||.1736||.0888|
NOTE. The percentages reflect the people who answered “quite a bit” or “very much” on the question, “Please indicate the extent to which you experienced these symptoms or problems during the past week.”
Abbreviation: EORTC QLQ-CIPN20, European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy 20.
*Difference between oxaliplatin versus no chemotherapy adjusted for stage, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, question 20 was adjusted for stage, diabetes, and age at time of questionnaire.
†Difference between oxaliplatin versus chemotherapy without oxaliplatin adjusted for stage, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, question 20 was adjusted for stage, diabetes, and age at time of questionnaire.
‡Numbers are too small to calculate P value.
Analyses among patients with colon cancer diagnosed since 2007 showed that patients treated with oxaliplatin reported significantly higher scores on the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 sensory scale problems compared with those not treated with chemotherapy (Fig 1). Furthermore, patients treated with chemotherapy without oxaliplatin scored significantly higher than those not treated with chemotherapy. These differences were clinically relevant.26,27 In contrast, no differences between treatments were found on the motor and autonomic scales. Similar analyses among patients with rectal cancer showed that those treated with oxaliplatin reported significantly higher scores on both the sensory and motor scale compared with those treated with chemotherapy without oxaliplatin. These differences were however not clinically relevant.
Multivariate linear regression analyses evaluating the association of sociodemographic (sex, age) and clinical (years since diagnosis, tumor type, treatment, stage, body mass index, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis) characteristics of CRC survivors with the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 subscales showed that oxaliplatin was positively associated with the sensory scale (standardized β = 0.15; P < .001). Similarly, these analyses were done on the most important single questions of the sensory scale, which showed that oxaliplatin was positively associated with tingling (β = 0.20; P < .001), numbness (β = 0.18; P < .001), and aching or burning pain (β = 0.10; P < .001) in toes or feet.
No significant differences were found regarding the EORTC QLQ-C30 subscale scores between CRC survivors diagnosed since 2007 who were not treated with chemotherapy and those treated with chemotherapy with or without oxaliplatin (data not shown). However, for the total group of patients with CRC, EORTC QLQ-C30 subscale scores between those who reported many sensory neuropathy symptoms (eg, upper 10% of scores) and those who reported less symptoms (eg, the other 90%) were compared (Table 5). Results showed that those with many neuropathy symptoms reported significantly lower and thus worse scores on all functioning scales and the global health status scale. In addition, these patients reported higher and thus worse scores on all symptoms scales. These results were all clinically relevant, ranging from a small to large clinically important difference.
|Symptom||Low Score on Sensory Scale* (n = 1,401) ||High Score on Sensory Scale† (n = 153) ||P‡||CID§|
|Physical functioning||84||18||66||25||< .001||Large|
|Role functioning||85||23||60||32||< .001||Medium|
|Emotional functioning||89||16||76||26||< .001||Small|
|Cognitive function||87||17||73||27||< .001||Medium|
|Social functioning||90||19||74||28||< .001||Large|
|Global health status/QOL||79||17||64||23||< .001||Medium|
|Nausea and vomiting||3||10||10||18||< .001||Small|
|Loss of appetite||4||14||14||26||< .001||Small|
|Financial impact||5||16||16||26||< .001||Medium|
Abbreviations: CID, clinically important difference; EORTC QLQ-CIPN20, European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy 20; QOL, quality of life; SD, standard deviation.
*Low score; 90% of patients with the lowest scores.
†High score; upper 10% of patients with the highest scores.
‡Confounding background variables included for adjustment were determined a priori and chosen to be age at time of questionnaire, years since diagnosis, marital status, stage, number of comorbid conditions, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
§This is based on recently published guidelines for the EORTC QLQ-C30.27
‖A higher score on the functional scales and global QOL means better functioning and QOL, whereas a higher score on the symptom scales means more complaints.
The five neuropathy subscale–related symptoms that bothered patients with CRC the most during the past week were erectile problems (men), trouble hearing, trouble opening a jar or bottle owing to loss of strength, tingling toes or feet, and trouble walking stairs or standing up. The majority of these symptoms are not necessarily related to cancer or its treatment but could also be age-related. Comparison with other studies is rather difficult because the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 has hardly been used. However, a study did report more general symptoms such as pain or discomfort and loss of sensation in the upper and lower extremities as assessed with a semistructured interview.28 In addition, injuries secondary to numbness, muscle weakness, and loss of balance were reported.
Oxaliplatin was positively associated with the sensory scale and with tingling, numbness, and aching or burning pain in toes or feet. A recent cross-sectional multicenter study showed that sensory symptoms, as assessed with the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20, were more severe than motor and autonomic symptoms, and this was supported with clinical results.29 Furthermore, a study using the sensory subscale of the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20 reported more problems (eg, numbness, tingling, and shooting or burning pain) in the lower versus upper extremities as well.30 In addition, two small studies among patients with CRC showed that numbness in the hands and feet were the most constant symptoms.28,31
Because patients with colon cancer receive a lower cumulative dose of chemotherapy compared with patients with colon cancer, differences in neuropathy-related symptoms could exist between patients with colon and rectal cancer treated with or without chemotherapy. Our results indeed showed that patients with colon cancer treated with chemotherapy demonstrated statistically significant worse sensory scores than nonchemotherapy-treated patients with colon cancer, whereas in patients with rectal cancer, these differences were found for both sensory and motor subscales. However, the differences among patients with rectal cancer were not clinically relevant, whereas they were for patients with colon cancer.
Numbness and aching/burning pain in toes and feet were significantly worse in those treated with oxaliplatin compared with patients not treated with chemotherapy. These symptoms were not different between those treated with oxaliplatin and those treated with other chemotherapy regimens. The fact that this difference was not statistically significant could be explained by the low number of patients included in the analyses (162 oxaliplatin, 118 other chemotherapy). Also, besides oxaliplatin, other chemotherapeutic agents such as vinca alkaloids, platinum compounds, and taxanes are known to cause neuropathy.32 The degree of neurotoxicity depends on the type of drug used, the duration of administration, and the cumulative dose applied.33,34 The use of combinations of chemotherapeutic agents can even strengthen neurotoxicity.33
Results of our study showed that those with many neuropathy symptoms reported statistically significant and clinically relevant worse scores on HRQOL. Although an increasing number of studies focus on HRQOL among patients with CRC in general,17,35–37 studies on the influence of neuropathy on this matter are scarce. A case report on a colon cancer survivor showed a decreased QOL owing to chronic oxaliplatin-induced neuropathy.38 Furthermore, a study among 33 patients showed that acute neuropathic symptoms most often interfered with “enjoyment of life” from the 14-item interference scale.31 Besides, a study on 14 patients showed that neuropathic symptoms interfered with many aspects of daily life.28 Participants voiced feelings of frustration, depression, and loss of purpose as a result of having to give up enjoyable activities. Additionally, a Dutch study showed a negative impact of neuropathy on daily activities and QOL in patients with cancer treated with chemotherapy.39 Moreover, a prospective study among 32 patients with lymphoma concluded that those with polyneuropathy showed worse QOL in domains mainly associated with physical health status.40 Finally, a descriptive study among 28 patients with cancer treated with a variety of neurotoxic agents showed that having neuropathy symptoms resulted in diverse symptom patterns and degrees of physical symptoms from mild to severe, emotional distress, alterations in functional ability, and social role impairment.41
Although we had information on the demographic and clinical characteristics of nonrespondents and patients with nonverifiable addresses, it remains unknown whether nonrespondents declined to fill out our questionnaire because of neuropathy symptoms in their hands. In addition, we do not have information on the presence of neuropathy symptoms (eg, idiopathic, entrapment, diabetic, alcoholic or age-related sensory neuropathy) before cancer treatment. However, we were able to control for some conditions that might lead to neuropathy-like symptoms such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, we were not able to control for multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, which could also cause neuropathy-like symptoms. However, the incidence of these conditions is rather low.42,43 Furthermore, because many neuropathy symptoms are subjective in nature, assessing them with a self-reported questionnaire is necessary. However, the lack of a clinical-based diagnosis of neuropathy is a limitation of this study. It also is a limitation that information on the exact chemotherapy dosage and the number of cycles given to patients is lacking because dosage seems to influence the severity of neurotoxicity.4 Moreover, neuropathy is a dose-limiting adverse effect of oxaliplatin. Therefore, a dose reduction could have taken place in those with acute neuropathy complaints during chemotherapy, which could have had an influence on whether chronic neuropathy occurs later on. Finally, the cross-sectional nature of this study limits the determination of causal associations, for instance, between chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and HRQOL.
Despite these limitations, the present study provides an important contribution to the limited data available on self-reported neuropathy and its influence on HRQOL. Our results show that, 2 to 11 years after diagnosis, neuropathy symptoms are still reported by a subgroup of patients with CRC. Furthermore, oxaliplatin was associated with sensory symptoms in toes or feet. Finally, this study is one of the first to show that those with many neuropathy symptoms report a lower HRQOL compared with those with less neuropathy symptoms. Because our results are based on a large population-based study with a high response rate, extrapolating these results to the larger population of CRC survivors seems justified.
These results call for further studies on neuropathy and its influence on HRQOL. Preferably, they would be prospective in nature, assess neuropathy objectively and subjectively, and take the dose of oxaliplatin in every cycle and the duration of therapy (cumulative dose) into account. Although many therapies for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy have been investigated, there is no well-accepted proven therapy.44 Future studies should therefore focus on possible ways to prevent or alleviate these symptoms, preferably without dose reduction or early cessation of the treatment. With respect to alleviating existing symptoms, results of a randomized placebo-controlled phase III trial showed that duloxetine is an effective treatment for taxane- or platinum-related chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.45 However, if a pharmaceutical approach is of limited benefit, physical therapy and gait and balance training might be helpful in improving physical performance.46
Supported by a VENI grant (Grant No. 451-10-041) from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (The Hague, the Netherlands) awarded to F.M. and a Cancer Research Award from the Dutch Cancer Society (Grant No. UVT-2009-4349) to L.V.P.-F.
Presented in part at the American Psycho-Oncology Society 10th Annual Conference, February 14-16, 2013, Huntington Beach, CA.
Authors' disclosures of potential conflicts of interest and author contributions are found at the end of this article.
The author(s) indicated no potential conflicts of interest.
Conception and design: Floortje Mols, Valery Lemmens, Corina J. van den Hurk, Gerard Vreugdenhil, Lonneke V. van de Poll-Franse
Financial support: Floortje Mols, Lonneke V. van de Poll-Franse
Provision of study materials or patients: Gerard Vreugdenhil
Collection and assembly of data: Floortje Mols, Lonneke V. van de Poll-Franse
Data analysis and interpretation: All authors
Manuscript writing: All authors
Final approval of manuscript: All authors
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We thank all patients and their physicians for their participation in the study. Special thanks go to M. van Bommel, MD, who was willing to function as an independent advisor and to answer questions of patients. In addition, we want to thank the following hospitals for their cooperation: Amphia Hospital, Breda; Bernhoven Hospital, Veghel and Oss; Catharina hospital, Eindhoven; Elkerliek Hospital, Helmond; Jeroen Bosch hospital, ‘s Hertogenbosch; Maxima Medical Centre, Eindhoven and Veldhoven; Sint Anna hospital, Geldrop; St. Elisabeth hospital, Tilburg; Twee Steden hospital, Tilburg and Waalwijk; VieCury hospital, Venlo and Venray.