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Alternative therapy may not be so alternative as it becomes more integrated with conventional medicine. Gwen Wyatt is a psychologist and counselor from Michigan State University who researches cancer care, pain management, quality of life and alternative therapies, as well as end of life care. She is currently organizing a study that will look at acupressure, and if it can help relieve chronic fatigue in survivors of breast cancer.
Eighty-two percent of patients feel chronically exhausted within five years of a breast cancer diagnosis. This may be because chemotherapy and radiotherapy destroy the immune system so those recovering from cancer also have to recover their immune function.
“There are more than two million breast cancer survivors today, and persistent cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common and distressing symptoms,” said Wyatt, who is a professor with the College of Nursing. “It is associated with decreased quality of life, poor sleep quality and depression.”
Three hundred breast cancer survivors who have been clear of cancer for at least a year and who are suffering from chronic fatigue will be studied. They will be divided into three groups. Group one will receive relaxation acupressure, group two will receive stimulating acupressure and group three will receive standard care.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is based on an ancient form of medicine developed over 5,000 years ago in Asia. It is believed that there are energy points in the body called meridians and that if any of these energy points get blocked, illness occurs. By pressing on the energy point the blockage can be released. It works on the same principle as acupuncture, where tiny needles are inserted at different energy points, but acupressure is less invasive.
Other medical research has shown acupressure to be beneficial to patients. For instance, one study found that it helped improve fatigue in end stage renal disease patients. The researchers wrote "Post-hoc tests revealed that patients in the acupressure group were significantly having lower scores of fatigue than patients in the control group.