April 15, 2005
updated April 6, 2009
Chemotherapy - Fingernails, Toenails, Ice and Frozen Peas
Susan Dean, Diane Doorbos, Suzanne Romswinckel and Judy Wilson
- The loss of nails is a fairly common side effect of the drug Taxotere(Docetaxel). Some oncologists, oncology nurses, and patient advocates advise patients to ice their nails. Supposedly if you sit while getting your Taxotere infusion with your finger and toe nails covered with something cold or frozen the chances of losing your nails are greatly reduced. Here are some suggestions:
- You can use ice chips, gel packs, cold packs or bags of frozen peas because they are cheap and easy to get. All those on Taxotere at my infusion center faithfully bring their bags of peas and swear it works. You just place the frozen bags of peas on your finger & toe nails during the taxotere drip. It is a good topic for conversation with the other chemo people.
I am sure it doesn't really matter what is used to chill the hands & feet as long as they are cold. I would imagine that the coldness prevents the drug from pooling in the digits since blood flow is restricted and therefore minimizing the nail loss. The ice chips work probably as well. The frozen pea thing came about because they stay really cold, you can work your fingers into them and they don't melt so you don't need to worry about spilling & getting wet. This is good for those of us who doze off during treatment. You can also just toss them back in the freezer from week to week. I have a couple gel packs also but find the smaller ones don't stay as cold as long and are harder to get fingers into.
You just need a couple bags of frozen peas. I use them over & over until the bag rips. The large bags work best. At the time your Taxotere drip starts, just place the frozen bags over your hands and feet. Smash the bags a bit so the peas are loose in the bag.
I have been faithfully doing this since I started Taxotere. I have had no sign of losing any nails. Several others in my treatment room have skipped it some and have nails that are falling off. For 45 min of cold feet and hands, if it works, I am sticking with it and so far, so good. I put on some fairly thick socks so I don't need a towel on my feet. I place a small hand towel over my hands, or use cotton gloves so it is not too cold.
- My mom was advised by her onc to ice her nails while receiving her taxotere infusion. She did and she had no trouble with her nails. She always wore the little medical gloves, got a cup of crushed ice in the cafeteria and put it in a plastic tray they had tons of around the infusion room. She wasn't wild about it but she was happy not to lose her nails. Mom had beautiful hands, not at all like me.
- The ice bath works... I wore latex gloves - bathed my fingers for the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of the treatment..... Didn't lose my nails to Taxotere.
I did ice the nails on my hands and feet during the infusions (with lots of blankets on to keep the rest of me from freezing). Putting the icepacks inside mittens makes it easier to keep them in place (I've heard of some people just putting on frozen mittens as well).