By: Lynette Summerill
Cancer patients want to do everything they can to beat the disease, manage its symptoms and cope with treatment side effects. So a commonly asked question to health professionals is, “Can acupuncture help me?”
Studies have found acupuncture to be useful in managing chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting in some cancer patients. Although research on acupuncture for cancer pain control and for management of other cancer symptoms is limited, some studies have shown beneficial effects that warrant further investigation, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). A 2008 evidence-based review of clinical options for managing nausea and vomiting in cancer patients point out electroacupuncture is an option to be considered.
Electroacupuncture or Energetic Acupuncture, uses needles with mild electric stimulation and moxibustion, a form of localized heating using herbs. The technique is said to accelerate a patient’s recovery after surgery and promote an increased sense of well-being. Since the early 1990s, this form of complementary medicine has been coupled with nutritional support and traditional medicine as routine cancer treatment in many institutions.
The art of acupuncture has been practiced for millennia in the Eastern hemisphere, but is a relatively new cancer treatment within a clinical setting in the US. It is commonly used to manage cancer-related symptoms, including pain, weight loss, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor appetite, dizziness and fatigue as well as gastrointestinal symptoms.
In 1997, NCI held a consensus conference to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture. The 12-member panel concluded “there is clear evidence that needle acupuncture treatment is effective for postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting.” The panel also stated in their report, “there are a number of other pain-related conditions for which acupuncture may be effective as an adjunct therapy, an acceptable alternative or as part of a comprehensive treatment program.”
According to NCI, acupuncture has also been found to boost blood cell count and enhance lymphocyte and natural killer cell activity in some cancer patients and is well tolerated by most patients, age 10 and older.
While acupuncture traditionally involves the use of stainless steel needles ranging from 0.22 mm to 0.25 mm in diameter inserted into relevant points on the body, there are some techniques that are needle-free, including using the fingers to apply pressure to acupuncture points. Another technique, known as cupping, uses round warmed glass cups placed upside down over an area of the body, creating a vacuum that holds the cup to the skin. This suction increases blood flow to the effected part of the body. Length and frequency of acupuncture procedure varies according to the condition being treated.
All acupuncture or “Zhen jiu” techniques are closely associated with the Chinese meridian theory, which states the human body is comprised of 12 primary meridians or channels, and eight secondary meridians with 360 points, each following a particular directional course. A vital energy, known as Qi (pronounced chee) flows through these meridians and participates in the homeostatic regulation of various bodily functions.
For a FREE physician referral, to register for a class or to make an appointment, please call 1-888-HEALING (1-888-432-5464).Read more in Roy & Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center