Dizziness after cancer treatment is a common complaint. In my experience, there are five reasons why people experience dizziness after cancer treatment.
1. Tumor Location
The location of the tumor can cause dizziness. Tumors in the brain or ears can contribute to dizziness both before and after cancer treatment. In this article, I will discuss more general reasons for dizziness after cancer treatment that can even affect people who do not have a tumor in the brain or ear.
2. Post-Irradiated BPPV
Sometimes breast cancer and throat cancer may be treated with radiation. In the past, radiation treatment used to be more broadly applied affecting neighboring structures. So if you had radiation for throat cancer, for example, the radiation may have also affected your nearby ear. I have met many cancer survivors with recurrent BPPV on the side that was treated with radiation many years ago.
Now that radiation therapy technology has improved so much by targeting a much smaller area, this is not as much of a concern for patients currently receiving radiation. However, people who received radiation therapy twenty or more years ago may experience post-irradiated, recurrent BPPV and dizziness after cancer treatment.
3. Foot Neuropathy
Some types of chemotherapy cause foot neuropathy. I have met many cancer survivors who began to notice dizziness and imbalance, worse withstanding. When I have assessed them, they may have a foot neuropathy that they did not even realize! Not all types of chemotherapy cause foot neuropathy, but some do. Foot neuropathy is a cause of dizziness after cancer treatment.
4. Orthostatic Hypotension
When someone is recovering from cancer, they may not be able to remain as active. They may have to rest more and even spend some time in the hospital as they conquer their cancer.
Orthostatic hypotension is another cause of dizziness after cancer treatment. This is caused by a drop in blood pressure when you sit up or stand up. For cancer survivors living at home, this may occur for up to three minutes after standing.
For cancer survivors who are in the hospital or recently discharged from the hospital, orthostatic hypotension can occur for up to seven minutes after standing.
Click here to learn how blood pressure is related to foot neuropathy.
5. Spinal Muscle Weakness
Muscle weakness is the fifth reason that someone may have dizziness after cancer treatment. Weakness is a common side effect of cancer and most cancer treatments. Muscle strength provides stability to keep your spinal column of bones in alignment. If the muscles of the spine get weak due to lack of exercise, then the spinal bones may come out of place.
Weak muscles also form spasms and trigger points as a way to compensate for the weakness. Muscle spasms and trigger points can cause dizziness, especially in certain muscles in the neck. Muscle weakness can contribute to cervicogenic dizziness. This can be due to muscle spasms and trigger points caused by weakness. Also, cervical spine alignment issues can affect blood flow to the brain.
If you are experiencing dizziness after cancer treatment or imbalance, I suggest you seek a consultation with a vestibular physical therapist.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.