Of the 1.3 to 1.4 million people who receive a cancer diagnosis each year, many receive chemotherapy treatments that manage and, in some cases, cure the disease. Thanks to these treatments, more people survive cancer now than at any time in the past. However, some types of chemotherapy can have long-lasting side effects. One such side effect, known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, or CIPN, can have a particularly negative effect on one's quality of life.
Essentially, CIPN is the result of damage caused to nerves in the hands, feet, and other parts of the body where there are nerve endings. People living with CIPN often describe their symptoms as tingling, burning, numbness, or pain. The severity of symptoms can range from bothersome to disabling. Although treatments for CIPN are available, they often yield limited results. With few treatment alternatives for easing the symptoms of CIPN, people have few options other than to endure them.
In the proposed study, the researchers hope to make use of gentle physical and psychological modalities that include Reiki, Yoga, Meditation, and holistic education to achieve reduction in symptoms of CIPN while increasing quality of life for participants. Prior to taking part in the study, participants will be assigned to one of the four modalities at random. Each week, participants will receive this modality while, at the same time, monitoring their personal responses to the modality. Ultimately, the researchers hope to reduce the physical and emotional burden of CIPN for all participants using each of the modalities.
Paul G. Clark, PhD, is an assistant professor in the George Mason University Department of Social Work. Prior to joining the faculty in 2008, Dr. Clark practiced social work in health and mental health care settings for more than 20 years as both a clinician and administrator. Dr. Clark's research interests include social work practice in health and mental health settings, oncology social work, development of evidence-based social work practice in community oncology settings, the role of social work in cancer survivorship, and use of the internet to provide online social work intervention.
Geronima Cortese-Jimenez, MPH, RN, OCN, is an oncology nurse education coordinator at Life with Cancer. Geronima has a profound interest in complementary and alternative modalities (CAM) and has been a Reiki Master since April 2000. Her Master's in Public Health from the George Washington University explored CAM's ability to improve breast cancer patients' quality of life. She currently speaks to community groups and co-facilitates various support groups for patients with gynecological, lung, breast and general cancers. Geronima meets with both in-patients and out-patients to talk about their illness, treatment plan, side-effects and available resources in English and Spanish.