It is well known that breast cancer (BC) patients often suffer from chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). However, it is not always recognized that they have higher risk of falling, dizziness and other signs of dysfunctional autonomous nervous system. We performed a systematic review of the literature on vibration perception threshold (VPT) and heart rate variability (HRV) as methods to objectively assess (CIPN) in BC-patients. Could VPT and HRV describe coexisting sensory and autonomic nerve damage?
PubMed was searched in September 2019. The included studies had to address HRV and/or VPT in BC-patients who received chemotherapy.
Seven studies assessed VPT and six studies assessed HRV in BC-patients. Studies showed lowered perception of vibrations after chemotherapy reflected in higher VPT and no changes in HRV after taxane-based chemotherapy. No studies evaluated VPT and HRV at the same time.
The results were limited by short follow-up, small sample sizes, and different chemotherapy regimens which makes generalizability problematic. A standard assessment method of CIPN is still missing and further research is needed to evaluate if VPT and HRV could contribute to an objective assessment of CIPN. With higher survival rates for BC-patients autonomous and sensory nerve damage will be an increasing task. However, our literature review showed that no one have focused on the combination of autonomous and sensory affection measured by the simple methods VPT and HRV. Therefore, we encourage the development of international guidelines for the objective measure of nerve damage in BC-patients.

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