As part of the holistic therapy team at ARC Cancer Support Centre, Hannah O'Connell Lic TCM has a depth of experience in using Acupuncture to alleviate the symptoms of cancer and its treatment side effects.
While the standard medical care for cancer is effective, the treatments are aggressive and cause numerous unwanted side effects as well as a lowered immune system. Acupuncture is increasingly being used as a complementary therapy in cancer treatments for its use in pain relief, reducing side effects, accelerating recovery and improving quality of life. Acupuncture is used as an "integrative" or "complementary" treatment. This means that acupuncture is used along with conventional treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat cancer.
How does Acupuncture help?
Acupuncture provides a holistic approach to health care for people with cancer. It can alleviate many of the concerns that come up during and after chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy and surgery. According to the National Cancer Institute, acupuncture may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. It is proposed that, by these actions, acupuncture affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity, and causes the body's natural painkillers, such as endorphins, to be released.
Areas in which Acupuncture has shown to be most effective:
Nausea and Vomiting
Dry Mouth (xerostomia), Night Sweats and Hot Flashes
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Bowel & Digestion issues
Increasing White Blood Cell Count
Nausea and Vomiting
The strongest evidence of the effect of acupuncture has come from clinical trials on the use of acupuncture to relieve nausea and vomiting. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is strong evidence that acupuncture can relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.
Dry Mouth (xerostomia)
Research published in the Annals of Oncology shows that head and neck cancer survivors, with the common side effect of radiotherapy treatments where there is not enough saliva in the mouth - who underwent acupuncture reported fewer symptoms of the condition than those who only had educational sessions about oral care.
"This is a very neglected group of patients suffering from a most unpleasant side-effect of treatment for which all other ameliorative interventions have failed to address adequately," study researcher Dr. Richard Simcock, a consultant clinical oncologist at the Sussex Cancer Centre, said in a statement. "The acupuncture intervention has been designed in a way that allows it to be delivered simply and cheaply in normal hospital surroundings and yet still produces a significant benefit for patients with a chronic symptom."
Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center had a study published last year in the journal Cancer showing that head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy had improved saliva flow after undergoing acupuncture, compared with people who just received standard care.
"The medical implications are quite profound in terms of quality of life, because while chronic dry mouth may sound benign, it has a significant impact on sleeping, eating and speaking," the researcher of that study Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson's Integrative Medicine Program, said in a statement. "Without saliva, there can be an increase in microbial growth, possible bone infection and irreversible nutritional deficits."
Human studies on the effect of acupuncture on the immune system of cancer patients showed that it improved immune system response, including increasing the number of white blood cells.
In clinical studies, acupuncture reduced the amount of pain in cancer patients. Though it usually does not replace pain medications, it may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed, and consequently some of the side effects of those pain medicines. Acupuncture is also very useful for support if you are undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or hormonal therapy.
Reduced depression and anxiety
Whether it be the treatment and its side effects, relentless hospital appointments, family issues, body changes, anger, sadness or a combination of the above, dealing with cancer can leave you with feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Preliminary studies have found that acupuncture may reduce both Depression and Anxiety in cancer patients.
Diet Your practitioner will also discuss appropriate dietary changes which can be of help. Chinese medicine, in general, has several tools by which to offer support. The emphasis is on strengthening and nourishing – the stronger our energy, the better able we are to resist disease and to have reduced adverse effects of treatment. Certainly, a healthy diet specific to the individual, acupuncture and energy exercises (tai chi or Qi gong) are all of benefit. Question and answers about Acupuncture from the National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture/patient/Page2#Section_57