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Nov 25 2013

The Role of Acupuncture in Treating Cancer Patients

chemotherapyThe American Cancer Society has reported that 50% of men and 30% of women in the U.S. population will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime.   Because cancer is such a dangerous and aggressive disease, it should be treated with all available treatments.  The integration of Traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine together has been evaluated, yielding a better overall outcome.

Well known for pain control, acupuncture can help alleviate joint stiffness and musculoskeletal pain among cancer patients.  In 2010, the American Journal of Clinical Oncology published the results of a small study, concluding that acupuncture helps relieve pain and stiffness in breast cancer patients who had undergone hormone therapy.  Furthermore, it can help relieve post-operative pain and sweating by increasing the circulation in the affected area and surrounding tissues, thereby accelerating the recovery process following surgery. 

An additional discomfort many cancer patients have been forced to experience is peripheral neuropathy induced by the chemotherapy in place, causing pain and limited mobility.  In 2011, an article was published in the Acupuncture in Medicine Journal by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, a teaching hospital of the University of Hamburg in Germany, maintaining that acupuncture has a positive effect on the chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

hot flashesNausea and vomiting commonly occur in patients undergoing chemotherapy.  Often times they make the treatments process significantly worse and uncomfortable.  Acupuncture therapy can be offered as a treatment to help alleviate those symptoms; Administered before, after or between chemotherapy treatments to best control the nausea and vomiting, acupuncture can effectively minimize the side effects of standard oncological treatments.

It has been observed that the majority of women treated for breast cancer suffer from hot flashes as a result of the chemotherapy and anti-estrogen hormones such as Tamoxifen and Arimidex.  Unfortunately for these patients, their hot flash symptoms cannot be treated with hormone replacement therapy, since it may increase the risk of the cancer relapsing.  It is why in 2011; Yale and University of Pittsburgh conducted a study for women with hot flashes caused by their hormonal treatments for breast cancer.  The study concluded that female cancer patients, treated with acupuncture had a 30% reduction in hot flashes. 

Overall, acupuncture can accelerate the patient’s recovery process and provides for a way to reduce many of the side effects induced by the chemotherapy and hormone replacement therapy.  Patients can greatly benefit and should take advantage of this remedy while undergoing their recovery process.

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