Did you know upwards of 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime? That is an astounding number. That means there are a lot of folks out there going through rigorous cancer therapy. Do we treat cancer with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine? No. But we do treat the side effects of cancer therapy. There are many forms of cancer therapy out there, but two types come with a whole heap of unwanted side effects: chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The particular set of side effects that one may encounter during therapy is dependent upon the type and location of the cancer and the type of therapy used. (See this website for details on specific side effects for specific cancer types and therapies.) Sometimes treatment is targeted to a small affected area of the body, other times treatment necessitates targeting the whole body. Whatever type of therapy is selected there are side effects: burns due to localized radiation, nausea and loss of appetite/taste due to chemotherapy, weight loss, susceptibility to secondary disease due to depressed immune function, pain, and the list goes on. There are potentially endless numbers or combinations of unwanted discomfort and suffering due to cancer therapy.
Cancer therapy can also cause intense emotional pain and suffering. (Resource site for support during therapy.) Sometimes the odds of surviving cancer are not favorable. And sometimes just facing all the unknowns can be daunting and overwhelming. There is much fear around the diagnosis of “cancer” and the course of treatment around it. All of these factors can make even the strongest of us feel vulnerable. It is very important to have strong support from loved ones during therapy.
Treatment can be very hard on the people that are there to support and help cancer patients through their time of need too. Oftentimes those people take on the role of the sick one and become that person in ‘normal’ life. They not only have to take care of their own life, work, family, etc, but they take on a whole other set of responsibilities too. It is exhausting physically and emotionally. Then, too, if they lose their loved one that adds a whole new layer of pain and distress.
So how can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture provides background support. It calms the central nervous system and it can help keep the immune system strong. It can help curb weight loss by reducing nausea and restoring appetite. It can help maintain specific bodily functions in cases of targeted radiation therapy. For example, with throat cancer it is especially important to maintain salivary gland function. It is particularly adept at helping with pain associated with some forms of cancer and subsequent therapy, including post-operative pain. Acupuncture can also help with emotional upset for cancer patients and their support team. Acupuncture is well known to stimulate the release of endorphins (our own built-in opioids) which reduce stress, ease pain, and give a sense of ease. The American Cancer Society cedes that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of the side effects of cancer therapy. (American Cancer Society page on alternative therapy.) More and more doctors are seeing the benefit of and recommending acupuncture to their patients for relief from cancer therapy.
Here is a paper published by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center focusing on the many applied uses of acupuncture including palliative care to cancer therapy:
Indeed, many cancer centers across the country are integrating acupuncture into their facilities so that their patients get one-stop care:
We know the importance of using every tool possible to aid in the best possible outcome of cancer therapy. We recommend acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to anyone undergoing cancer treatment. If you are new to acupuncture download our free book Taking the Mystery Out of Acupuncture: A Practical Guide to the Basics of Chinese Medicine and How It Can Help You Achieve Optimal Health. This book will guide you through the process of learning about acupuncture and how to select a practitioner that is right for you. If you are reading this article because you have (or someone you know has) cancer you owe it to yourself to at least learn of the many uses and therapeutic effect of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.