Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women. Although it can occur at any age, most newly diagnosed women are aged 60 or older. With treatment advances, many women are now surviving more than 5 years after initial treatment. However, some women may be left with lasting effects of cancer treatments. One effect is called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). With CIPN, women may experience pain, numbness, sensitivity, tingling, burning, or weakness in their hands and feet. These symptoms may persist long after treatment has ended and may cause temperature-related injuries, balance problems, falls, and impaired quality of life. Older women may be at particular risk for CIPN and its negative impacts. Unfortunately, very little is known about CIPN, including the best way to measure it.
This research program aims to improve our understanding of CIPN across the adult lifespan. We will see whether the tools used to measure CIPN are measuring the same thing in the same way in younger and older women. We will also ask women to tell us, in their own words, whether the questions we ask them to measure their symptoms accurately represent their experience. In a second step, we will use the tools to evaluate the experiences of CIPN in younger and older women with breast cancer, during treatment and up to 2 years after treatment. This study will help us describe when CIPN occurs, how long it lasts, and the factors that influence CIPN and that may be changed. We will also study the impacts of CIPN on important daily activities and quality of life. Overall, this research program will help improve symptom screening and monitoring. It will also contribute to the development of treatments that are tailored to the unique needs of women with breast cancer at different life stages.