Cancer treatments can cause a variety of other side effects that also need to be addressed. More and more research is showing acupuncture as a viable option for additional pain management for those receiving chemotherapy or surgery and for the common side effects those treatments can bring. These side effects can include neuropathy, dry mouth, constipation, anxiety, and nausea.
How it Works
It is commonly taught that acupuncture works by regulating and balancing qi, the energy that flows through the body along channels called meridians. By inserting needles into points along these channels, or meridians, the nervous system is modified through the stimulation of these points along the body. Neurotransmitters, like endorphins and serotonin, are released, thus relieving pain and restoring the balance of qi in the body.
What Cancer Research Says
Recent medical research demonstrates that acupuncture does appear to be a safe and effective treatment option for people experiencing some symptoms that come from various types of cancer treatment protocols. It can help manage the side effects from chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy.
The 2009 study, The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care, ultimately found that, “Clinical research on acupuncture in cancer care is a new and challenging field in oncology. The results of clinical research will continue to provide us with clinically relevant answers for patients and oncologists. The evidence currently available has suggested that acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy to manage cancer and treatment related symptoms, while giving patients the ability to actively participate in their own care plan. Future research requires the involvement of clinical researchers, clinicians, and patients. Development of innovative research methods is also crucial. It is expected that as more evidence continues to emerge, oncology acupuncture eventually will be integrated into standard oncology practice. The successful integration of acupuncture at major academic medical and research facilities, such as DFCI and other major cancer centers, underscores the need for and value of acupuncture in cancer care.”
Symptoms Impacted by Acupuncture
A 2018 review of studies found that acupuncture had a positive impact on cancer-related fatigue, a common side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy-induced nausea is perhaps one of the most common side effects of treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, evidence shows acupuncture relieves the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.
Additional studies examining pain control with acupuncture show it can help with reducing the pain associated with surgery and some cancer treatments. Other studies show acupuncture helping to alleviate depression and anxiety and sleep issues associated with treatment, and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. People undergoing cancer treatment also have compromised immune function. Even more studies have shown that it may have a positive influence on immune function in cancer patients.
If you or a family member are going through cancer treatments and are looking for drug-free alternatives to the side effects that can come with common cancer treatments, talk to an acupuncturist to determine your options. Adding acupuncture to your treatment regimen can provide you with relief from uncomfortable side effects.