A systematic review of behavioural and exercise interventions for the prevention and management of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy symptoms

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Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) can result in functional difficulties. Pharmacological interventions used to prevent CIPN either show low efficacy or lack evidence to support their use and to date, duloxetine remains the only recommended treatment for painful CIPN. Non-pharmacological interventions such as exercise and behavioural interventions for CIPN exist.

The aims were to (1) identify and appraise evidence on existing behavioural and exercise interventions focussed on preventing or managing CIPN symptoms, (2) describe psychological mechanisms of action by which interventions influenced CIPN symptoms, (3) determine the underpinning conceptual models that describe how an intervention may create behaviour change, (4) identify treatment components of each intervention and contextual factors, (5) determine the nature and extent of patient and clinician involvement in developing existing interventions and (6) summarise the relative efficacy or effectiveness of interventions to lessen CIPN symptoms and to improve quality of life, balance and muscle strength.

A systematic search of Ovid Medline, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Health Management Information Consortium, Global Health and CINAHL was performed to identify articles published between January 2000 to May 2020, followed by OpenGrey search and hand-searching of relevant journals. Studies that explored behavioural and/or exercise interventions designed to prevent or improve symptoms of CIPN in adults who had received or were receiving neurotoxic chemotherapy for any type of cancer, irrespective of when delivered within the cancer pathway were included.

Nineteen randomised controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies which explored behavioural (n=6) and exercise (n=13) interventions were included. Four studies were rated as methodologically strong, ten were moderate and five were weak. Ten exercise and two behavioural interventions, including those that improved CIPN knowledge and self-management resources and facilitated symptom self-reporting, led to reduced CIPN symptoms during and/or after chemotherapy treatment.

The extent of potential benefits from the interventions was difficult to judge, due to study limitations. Future interventions should incorporate a clear theoretical framework and involve patients and clinicians in the development process.

Implications for Cancer Survivors
Our findings show exercise interventions have beneficial effects on CIPN symptoms although higher quality research is warranted. Behavioural interventions that increase patient’s CIPN knowledge, improve self-management capacity and enable timely access to symptom management led to reduced CIPN symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of cancer survivorship : research and practice
Early online date12 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2021


  • Systematic Review
  • Exercise
  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Cancer survivorship
  • Behavioural intervention


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