By Crystalin Montgomery, ND, LAc
Approximately 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. As cancer becomes more common, cancer research has expanded and treatments have become more effective at extending the lives of those with a diagnosis.
Despite the development of technology and pharmaceutical agents that are able to specifically target different cancers, side effects from chemotherapy, radiation and post-surgery are still a common occurrence among cancer patients. In order to minimize these side effects and enhance the effectiveness of conventional therapies, more and more people are turning to complementary therapies. The latest estimate, according to the National Cancer Institute, found that 89-90% of people with cancer utilize complementary therapies.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there is “good, scientific evidence” that acupuncture is effective at relieving some of the side effects experienced by individuals undergoing conventional cancer therapies. Below is a breakdown of how acupuncture can enhance the effectiveness of your conventional therapies and support you during your journey with cancer.
- Boosts immune function and blood cell counts – studies have shown acupuncture improves lymphocyte and natural killer (NK) cell activity (important types of white blood cells) and supports immune function so that patients are able to complete their full chemotherapy regimens.
- Improves overall quality of life – individuals receiving acupuncture often report an improvement in anxiety and feelings of depression.
- Nausea and vomiting – acupuncture can help reduce nausea, which is essential to rebuilding stamina and immune system function.
- Pain – studies have shown acupuncture to help both decrease pain as well as amount of pain medication needed by those undergoing conventional treatments.
- Fatigue – those who receive acupuncture often report a feeling of increased energy, allowing them to continue with conventional therapy.
- Hot flashes – those who receive regular acupuncture see an improvement in hot flashes. The Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that acupuncture was “just as effective as (the medication) venlaxafine for management of vasomotor symptoms…and caused fewer side effects.”
- Other side effects – individuals receiving acupuncture often report an improvement in other side effects such as peripheral neuropathy, weight loss, dry mouth, cough and lymphedema.
Acupuncture is recognized as a key therapy that can be utilized to enhance the effectiveness of your cancer treatments and improve your recovery, and more cancer treatment centers are realizing the importance of acupuncture in helping individuals withstand and recover from conventional treatments so that they are able to undergo full treatment regimens.
There are many ways the practitioners at Be Well Natural Medicine can support you before, during, and after your journey through cancer treatment. After completion of treatments, Be Well practitioners will continue to support you whether you are cancer-free or entering end-of-life care.
Literature to support the use of acupuncture in conjunction with conventional care.
- The effect of acupuncture on post-cancer fatigue and well-being for women recovering from breast cancer: a pilot randomised controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine: Journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society. 2012.
- The management of cancer-related fatigue after chemotherapy with acupuncture and acupressure: A randomised controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2007.
- Acupuncture: role in comprehensive cancer care--a primer for the oncologist and review of the literature. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2005.
- Acupuncture as palliative therapy for physical symptoms and quality of life for advanced cancer patients. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2010.
National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture/healthprofessional/page5
National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Acupuncture. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 08/10/2012. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture/healthprofessional. Accessed 01/09/2013.