Acupuncture's use with cancer patients has been recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the treatment of cancer and treatment-related symptoms. During your cancer treatment you may experience some, many, or none of the side effects associated with your type of cancer, stage, or type of treatment you receive. As you fight cancer, it is important to minimize side effects so you can stay strong and continue your treatment regime with fewer interruptions. Pain, nausea, breathlessness, constipation, diarreah, and edema have all been found to respond to acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Acupuncture also acts against carcinogens (factors attributable to cancer development) through its ability to reduce stress and enhance immune function. Studies confirm that red and white cell development increases after consistent acupuncture treatments, thereby strengthening the immune system.
For conditions where the cancer is detected early, acupuncture can maintain and promote the normal functioning of the body. Several studies have shown its ability to boost the immune system and encourage the growth of healthy functioning cells. This counteracts the result of radiation and chemotherapy that tends to attack both normal and abnormal cells. An additional benefit of acupuncture is that it can induce a state of deep calm and relaxation and alleviate physical and emotional tensions.
In cases where a tumor has formed, acupuncture can be used pre- and post-operatively where appropriate as an adjunct therapy to surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. According to a study done for patients who underwent gynecological surgery for cancer, acupuncture was shown to speed recovery time. A recent study done at UCLA found that acupuncture could reduce nausea and vomiting following surgery and significantly reduce post-operative pain.
For advanced stages of cancer, acupuncture can be used in conjunction with other forms of palliative care to significantly reduce the sensation of pain. In some cases, patients may be able to reduce the dosage of pain medication substantially, and thereby avoid the harsh side effects that are often associated with them.
Acupuncture and Chemotherapy Side Effects
For many people undergoing chemotherapy, the dreaded side effect of nausea and vomiting is more difficult than the chemotherapy itself. A study conducted at UCLA found significant reduction of nausea and vomiting when the patients were treated with acupuncture before undergoing chemotherapy. American Cancer Society reports that acupuncture is now routinely administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control of nausea and vomiting. The use of acupuncture minimizes the use of standard, expensive multi-drug regimens so that side effects of cancer treatments are reduced and the side effects of anti nausea medication are avoided altogether.
Acupuncture and Cancer Pain Management
Acupuncture is useful in managing cancer-related pain. It’s function is the same as treating other types of pain, but the extra benefit is that the confusion, disturbed mental functioning, behavioral changes, nausea and severe constipation, associated with taking narcotics is avoided or greatly reduced.
Acupuncture is often used as an adjunctive therapy in anesthesia, post-operative pain control, and aiding and hastening recovery from the side effects of cancer treatment. Acupuncture is effective for control of pain, of local swelling post-operatively, tissue swelling and minimizing the use of medications.
Acupuncture and Increased Energy in Cancer Treatment
Acupuncture reestablishes homeostasis by re-balancing energy distribution and un-blocking energy flow. Acupuncture can provide a more durable, successful pain control plan and provide a sense of well being and increased energy to cancer survivors. Acupuncture decreases the malaise associated with any chronic disease, and in a wonderful adjunct to cancer treatment.
The importance of your practitioner with Acupuncture for Cancer
More than any other disease it is very important that you connect with your acupuncture practitioner while undergoing cancer care. You are often at several appointments a week to manage your disease and are asked to endure uncomfortable, painful treatments. At times you may have to wait for hours at the MDs office, or be asked to unexpectedly come back the next day. When you choose an acupuncturist, it is very important that you select a caring, compassionate individual with the ability to understand your special needs and make your treatments a healing, comforting experience.
Lisa Swanson was fortunate to intern at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA and the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic in Oakland, CA while in the San Francisco Bay area. She has seen and treated many types of cancer and experienced a woman diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer go into remission, and many brave, courageous men and women survive their illness. It is always an honor for her to be a part of your health care team while undergoing care for your cancer survivorship. For completely natural cancer treatments Lisa recommends the Gerson therapy or Budwig method.