The National Institutes of Health began looking into acupuncture as a complementary therapy for cancer-related symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments in 1997. Since then, researchers have conducted thousands of studies that demonstrate acupuncture can help relieve cancer symptoms. Acupuncture can be a very useful tool and support for your cancer journey.
Five ways acupuncture helps relieve cancer symptoms
- Reduced vomiting, nausea
- Pain relief
- Strengthened immune response
- Improved digestion
- Stress management
1. Reduced vomiting, nausea
The strongest evidence for acupuncture has come from clinical trials on the use of acupuncture to relieve nausea and vomiting [caused by chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy].National Cancer Institute
The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture reports that the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine routinely administers acupuncture before, after and in-between chemotherapy treatment sessions based on research results reporting significant reduction of nausea and vomiting.
2. Pain relief
Those on a cancer journey may experience pain from a variety of sources including:
- Hormone therapy, especially from breast cancer
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Other cancer sources
Studies looking at pain control using acupuncture suggest that it may help reduce the pain associated with cancer as well as from surgery. It may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed and, consequently, side effects of those medicines. Acupuncture has also been shown to improve circulation in the body leading to regeneration of damaged nerves (neuropathy) and improve healing of scar tissue.
3. Strengthened immune response
Several studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in enhancing blood platelet count after radiation or chemotherapy. Increasing the production of defensive white blood cells throughout the body allows your body to hone its response to bacteria or other invaders. The body’s natural killer cell activity also increased greatly after a series of acupuncture treatments, which may mean patients recover more quickly.
4. Improved digestion
Radiation treatments may lead to pain and swelling in the mouth and throat, making swallowing difficult. Another challenge associated with radiation therapy is dry mouth. Some patients also lose their sense of taste. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease these side effects, allowing patients to swallow, eat and drink normally. Research has shown that acupuncture increased saliva flow for an extended period time. Acupuncture can also help restore appetite and regulate bowel movements.
5. Stress management
A study of 302 people with breast cancer found that acupuncture helped manage a large range of cancer symptoms over a 6-week period. These symptoms included mental fatigue, physical pain, anxiety, and depression.
Cancer patients claim that they feel calmer and happier. Additionally, many report less worry and anxiety. They report feeling more mentally alert and more emotionally stable. These reports supplement the research about acupuncture and its ability to help the nervous system relax and improve sleep.
In addition to these main areas, acupuncture can help with many other cancer symptoms. For example, those with breast or prostate cancer and undergoing hormone therapy may experience hot flashes. Patients have reported benefits from acupuncture in these areas as well.
“Oncology acupuncture” is a specialty area of practice with unique safety and psychosocial issues. It’s reassuring that studies reported no adverse events and patients report very few side effects, mostly soreness or pain during treatment. The practitioners for Juvenate Healing’s acupuncture services in Tempe are very experienced in treating cancer patients. We advise patients to commit to a sustained series of acupuncture treatments that support you throughout your cancer journey.