Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing with modern applications. Many leading edge cancer centers today include acupuncture therapy for cancer patients. For the cancer patient or cancer survivor/thrivor, research supports the use of acupuncture for the following concerns:
Pain Management: Acupuncture is very effective for managing pain related to tumors, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and inflammation. Patients who receive acupuncture may be able to use lower doses of pain medications, enjoy improved quality of life as well as more restful sleep.
Immune System Modulation: Many cancers and cancer treatments cause a suppression of the bone marrow, the source of blood cells that are the army of the immune system. Acupuncture increases blood cell production and enhances Natural Killer Cells and Lymphocytes which leads to increased immune response and decreased risk of infection.
Inflammation: Increased inflammation is a part of the physiology of cancer. Many of the treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery also cause painful inflammation. Acupuncture reduces the pain and swelling related to inflammation.
Nausea and Vomiting: Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the intensity and frequency of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Dry, Painful Mouth and Throat: Cancer patients receiving radiation to the head and neck experience dry mouth due to the reduction in saliva production. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease these side effects.
Sleep: Cancer patients suffer sleep disruption and insomnia due to post-surgical discomfort, anxiety and depression and physical pain. By relieving these symptoms the cancer patient is able to get the deep sleep and rest required for recovery and healing.
Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Patients: Many women undergoing hormonal treatment for breast cancer experience hot flashes that disrupt sleep and activities of daily living. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes for breast cancer patients.
Neuropathy or nerve damage and related pain and numbness is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Both during and after cancer treatment, acupuncture supports the healing and repair of nerves and the restoration of normal nerve function.
Quality of Life: Eugene Mak, MD, a board certified oncologist states that acupuncture ” can also add to the patients’ sense of well being and decrease the malaise associated with any chronic disease, especially cancer….and imparts a sense of well being and accelerates patients’ recovery.” At the Dana Farber Cancer Center acupuncture therapy is employed to support quality of life for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Acupuncture Therapy uses very thin needles inserted into acupuncture points throughout the body. Acupuncture needles are very thin and flexible. Needle insertion is very gentle and feels like a momentary mosquito bite at the surface of the skin. The acupuncture points themselves are in muscle and are not near nerves or blood vessels. During a treatment you slowly will drop down into a pleasant state of restful relaxation. In order to create deep lasting change, acupuncture is done as a series of treatments.