Some cancers and cancer treatments can cause nerve damage. The most common type is numbness and tingling in the toes and fingers. Other nerve damage includes increased (or decreased) sensitivity to temperature and more uncomfortable sensations such as burning or electric shock–like pain. Nerve damage can result in weakness of the limbs, balance problems and difficulty with fine muscle movements. The degree of damage may relate to the type and dose of cancer treatment received. Survivors may recover from nerve damage completely or incompletely over time.
The changes in sensation and strength associated with nerve damage can reduce an employee’s dexterity in tasks that require fine motor skills, such as handling small materials and typing. Decreased sensation in the hands puts employees at a greater risk of injury. Lack of grip strength may make handling tools or climbing ladders more difficult. Changes in sensation may also affect balance when standing still and make it difficult to walk on uneven ground or stand for prolonged periods of time. Increases or decreases in temperature sensitivity may make it harder to work in extreme temperatures such as handling hot items while cooking food, and working in refrigerated environments or outdoors. Nerve sensitivity may also affect pain levels.