Not that anyone who has received chemo really doubted it, however we now have official guidelines to treat it. Recently the “NCCN”, or National Comprehensive Cancer Network, established guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of two conditions resulting from chemotherapy:

Cognitive Impairment which is the medical term for when cancer patients describe an inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, slower thoughts and speech, and difficulty making decisions (“chemo brain”).

Peripheral Neuropathy which is the numbness and tingling that occurs in the fingers and toes after receiving chemo. Neuropathy can be quite painful and occurs in 20-40% of patients receiving chemo.

Why is it important that the NCCN established these guidelines? Two reasons really: oncologists refer to the NCCN guidelines regularly for information on how to treat cancer and the NCCN is also referenced by insurance companies to ensure that cancer patients are being treated per the standard of care.

By adding both Cognitive Impairment and Peripheral Neuropathy to the NCCN guidelines, the medical community is formally recognizing symptoms that cancer patients have been describing for years. The NCCN also provides evaluation and treatment strategies to ensure all oncologists are up-to-date on these conditions, and even better, insurance companies should be more willing to cover these costs.

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Dr. Norleena Gullett is a Radiation Oncologist at Erlanger Cancer Institute in Chattanooga, TN. In addition to her medical expertise, she strives to offer emotional, psychological, and spiritual support in her care for her patients. She prides herself on treating  you, the whole person, with the best care possible.