Hand-Foot Syndrome: A Common Side Effect of Breast Cancer Treatment
What to expect and what you can do
One of the lesser-known side effects from chemotherapy is a skin reaction known as hand-foot syndrome, in which the palms of the hands and soles of the feet become red and painful, and the skin may peel, blister, or develop sores. The official name of this condition is palmar-plantar toxicity, though doctors may also call it erythrodysesthesia or erythema. It's much easier to call it by its common name, hand-food syndrome, which is sometimes abbreviated HFS.
This condition isn't the same as neuropathy, which is nerve damage (also caused by chemo) and causes tingling, numbness, and a pins-and-needles type of pain.
Hand-foot syndrome happens as a reaction to certain chemotherapy drugs. Chemo agents known to cause hand-foot syndrome include:
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Doxil).
- Capecitabine (Xeloda).
- Fluorouracil (5-FU).
- Cytarabine (Ara-C).
- Sunitinib (Sutent).
- Sorafenib (Nexavar).
Doctors don't know exactly what causes hand-foot syndrome, but it seems to occur when small blood vessels in the hands and feet break due to pressure or high temperature, allowing chemo drugs to leak into the tissues of the hands and feet. This leads to irritation and inflammation of the tissues.