Acupuncture is becoming an increasingly sought after alternative therapy for a number of reasons, including musculoskeletal conditions, smoking cessation, PMS and weight loss. The centuries-old healing practice is also used to relieve the effects of cancer related treatments.
Today acupuncture is recommended for cancer patients at the Mayo Clinic and at Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. As a matter of fact, a growing number of oncologists now refer their patients for acupuncture treatments to help manage their cancer symptoms and a lot of cancer treatment centers have a licensed acupuncturist on staff.
Following are just a few examples of how acupuncture help cancer patients deal with the many challenges they face during treatment.
Immune System Management
Most cancers and cancer treatments result in a suppression of bone marrow, the source of the blood cells that are needed to boost the immune system. Acupuncture improves blood cell production and enhances the “Natural Killer Cells” (Lymphocytes) that contribute to a decrease in the risk of infection by increasing immune response.
Cancer is a painful disease and the treatments take a painful toll on the body as well, also causing inflammation and swelling. Along with that, most traditional cancer pain management treatments cause side effect like nausea, confusion, respiratory depression, constipation and difficulty urinating. Acupuncture has been shown to be highly effective for managing pain associated with radiation, chemotherapy, inflammation, tumors and surgery. In addition, patients who have acupuncture therapy in some cases are able to lower the dosages of traditional pain medications.
Increased inflammation is a part of the physiology of cancer. Most of the cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy also contribute to painful inflammation. Acupuncture therapy can reduce the pain and swelling related to inflammation.
Nausea and Vomiting
Acupuncture can reduce the frequency and intensity of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients that are receiving chemotherapy.
Painful Dry Mouth and Throat
Cancer patients that are undergoing radiation to the neck or head typically experience dry mouth as a result of a reduction in the production of saliva. In addition, radiation treatments often end up causing pain and swelling in the throat and mouth, making it very difficult to eat or swallow. These patients also can end up losing their sense of taste. Acupuncture has demonstrated that it can decrease these side effects, making it possible for the patient to comfortably swallow, drink and eat normally, also protecting oral health and reduces the incidence of infections, swelling and pain in the throat and mouth during radiation therapy.
Cancer patients usually experience insomnia and sleep disruption, a consequence of post-surgical discomfort, physical pain, anxiety and depression. Acupuncture can relieve these symptoms, making it possible for the patient to get a good, deep sleep and the much needed rest that is required for healing and recovery.
Most women with breast cancer that undergo hormonal treatment experience hot flashes that end up disrupting sleep and daily living activities. Acupuncture can reduce the intensity and frequency of cancer related hot flashes. Acupuncture has also been shown to help men that have prostate cancer reduce the hot flashes they experience during hormonal treatment.
One of the top benefits of acupuncture therapy is that by managing the resulting pain and stress of the cancer treatments, reducing the inflammation, improving sleep etc., the patient’s quality of life is improved. Acupuncture also helps create a sense of well-being and accelerates recovery.
Talk to your cancer care team about making acupuncture therapy a part of your treatment plan and ask them for a referral.