Acupuncture and Cancer
A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. Cancer is the third leading cause of death in the US, although advancements in treatment prolong lifespan and increase cure rates, they can have devastating side effects. Acupuncture can be of benefit during your cancer journey.
Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells and can happen anywhere in the body. You have most likely already had several cancers, but your immune system attacked and killed the abnormally growing cells. Part of the focus of acupuncture is on regulating and boosting the immune system.
Treatments are very individualized, depending on the course of treatment as determined by the oncologist. My goal, as an acupuncturist, is to keep my patients healthy enough to continue with their treatments, whether it chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery. The acupuncturist will review the chemotherapy drugs (if used) to determine the mechanism of action of the drug, the most common side effects and the patients constitution. Acupuncture may be used prophylactically to prevent side effects. Acupuncture can help with nausea and vomiting, pain, xerostomia (dry mouth), neuropathy, insomnia, fatigue and digestion support. Acupressure wrist bands may also help with nausea.
Acupuncture can also benefit those undergoing radiation. Topical burn cream (purple cloud ointment) can help skin changes associated with radiation burns. Acupuncture can help clear heat symptoms from radiation, such as insomnia, hot flashes, hemorrhoids, headaches, and irritability.
A common concern during cancer treatment is low blood cell counts, which can stop treatment if they drop too low. Acupuncture can help improve these counts during chemo and/or radiation.
Cancer is a highly emotional burden, creating a lot of uncertainty and fear for both the patient and their family. That stress puts more pressure on the body, leading to more anxiety or depression, poor sleep and concentration. Acupuncture understands the connection between physical and mental health, and can support the emotional toll of cancer.
Most major cancer centers have acupuncturists on staff. An acupuncturist can be a beneficial part of your oncology team. Acupuncture is not meant to be a replacement for treatment but can safely be done while undergoing any concurrent therapies.