Acupuncture as an Adjunct Therapy for Cancer and Chemotherapy

There have been many advances in the early detection and treatment of cancer. While the standard medical care for cancer is effective, the treatments are aggressive and cause numerous unwanted side effects as well as a lowered immune system. Acupuncture has received much attention as an adjunctive therapy in cancer treatments for its use in pain relief, reducing side effects, accelerating recovery and improving quality of life.

According to the National Cancer Institute, acupuncture may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. It is proposed that, by these actions, acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity, and causes the body’s natural painkillers, such as endorphins, to be released.

Acupuncture provides a total approach to health care for people with cancer. It can be used to address many of the concerns that come up during and after chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy and surgery.

Areas that acupuncture has shown the most promise include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • dry mouth, night sweats and hot flashes
  • stress, anxiety and fatigue
  • pain management
  • increasing white blood cell count (immune support)

The strongest evidence of the effect of acupuncture has come from clinical trials on the use of acupuncture to relieve nausea and vomiting. Several types of clinical trials using different acupuncture methods showed acupuncture reduced nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, surgery, and morning sickness. It appears to be more effective in preventing vomiting than in reducing nausea.

Source: National Cancer Institute.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

The frequency and length of treatment will vary based on the severity of your symptoms and your treatment goals. Generally, when going through chemotherapy, treatment can be performed before to help alleviate stress or anxiety, and afterward to address symptoms such as lack of appetite, nausea or fatigue. Many come in weekly to help support their immune system, digestive system, energy, and to help improve their mood. Based on your individual symptoms, we will be able to devise a treatment plan that can address your concerns and treatment goals on your first visit.